GAITHERSBURG, Md. - It was a sad day for the Montgomery County Police Department and the community it serves. Officer Noah Leotta died Thursday after he was struck last week while conducting a traffic stop.
A witness who saw the officer that night and was at his side after he was hit spoke with FOX 5 about the tragic incident.
Kevin Beltran said he was simply driving slowly as he watched Leotta pull over a man for suspected drunk driving. He said he was drawn to look by the police cruiser's lights. But in just an instant, another car rammed into the cruiser and the officer was nowhere to be seen.
"I kept telling him, ‘Stay with us. Stay with us. Stay with us,’” Beltran recalled.
He was in a car with his friends on Rockville Pike last Thursday evening when he saw the Leotta violently hit by an oncoming car.
"I was shocked,” he said. “I was like, ‘Where did he go?’ I thought he was gone, but he was on the ground.”
Officer Leotta was standing between his cruiser's seat and the car door, and according to witnesses, he was flung in the air and his door pushed against the hood of his car.
"He was having trouble breathing,” said Beltran. “We started taking off his vest because I said maybe he has broken ribs, so that weight needs to be opened up."
He held onto Leotta's hand as he lied bleeding and virtually unresponsive.
"When I first grabbed it, it was racing and slowly started slowing down, so I was trying to keep him awake,” said Beltran. “I was like, ‘Stay with me, stay with me.’ It really broke me because it looked like he knew he wasn’t going to make it."
Police believe 47-year-old Luis Gustavo Reluzco had smoked marijuana and had been drinking at a restaurant for hours before he got behind the wheel of a Honda CRV.
Beltran said Reluzco never got out of the car.
We knocked at Reluzco's door at his home, but no one answered. However, his mother was at her Olney home.
She told us she did not know if he was drinking and driving that night.
“We haven’t talked too much about it," she said. "He’s real sad to hear about him.”
Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas Manger said Reluzco has been arrested twice before for driving under the influence.
Beltran read about the news of Leotta's passing Thursday morning and had hoped to visit him and his family in the hospital.
"But at some point, I was like, ‘I’m going to go,’ but it was a little too late,” he said.
It was a day that has forever changed so many lives and one Beltran will never forget.
"I’m 19, I don’t know what I want to do in life, but after that night, I'm thinking of becoming a Montgomery County police officer,” Beltran said.
Reluzco has not been charged in this incident. The State Attorney's Office said prosecutors will review the accident reconstruction report, blood toxicology results and a final police report, and then they will "act accordingly."