a man in uniform standing in front of an american flag
Monroe County Sheriff’s Deputy Julian Garcia was injured on April 9 as he was conducting a traffic stop in Islamorada. MCSO/Contributed

Monroe County Sheriff’s Deputy Julian Garcia has undergone multiple surgeries since a traffic stop in Islamorada one month ago nearly cost him his life.

“I think he’s had like eight surgeries, so he’s in a very difficult state,” said Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay, who talks to Garcia every few days. “He’s in really good spirits considering what he’s going through.”

On Thursday, May 9, a community-wide blood drive will be held in Garcia’s honor. OneBlood and its big red buses will be stationed at MCSO facilities from Islamorada to Key West. 

Garcia’s injuries serve as a poignant reminder of the life-saving role blood donations play.

“In this case, a family member of MCSO has required a lot of donated blood from others to help save his life,” Ramsay said.

Garcia was conducting a traffic stop along U.S. 1 on April 9 when a suspected drunk driver slammed into his patrol car as he was walking between his car and a car he had pulled over.

The 26-year-old deputy was pinned between the two vehicles on the side of the road near MM87.

The deputy, who has been on the force since February 2022, suffered serious injuries to his lower body. He was airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital.

Authorities say Alexandra Marlene Baraga, 26, was behind the wheel of the vehicle that struck deputy Garcia. She had a blood alcohol level of 0.310, nearly four times the legal limit. Baraga is from Minnesota originally but lives in the Keys and listed animal care as her occupation. The day after the accident, she was released from jail after posting a $95,000 bond. She was not injured.

“She bonded out; in a matter of eight hours, she was back to her normal life,” said Ramsay.

Appointments to donate blood in honor of Garcia are not required but they are recommended.

Donors must weigh at least 110 pounds and be at least 16 years old. Any donors 16 or 17 years old also need consent from their parents or guardian.

“You’ve probably heard that phrase that one donation can affect three people. It’s because we take the whole blood unit and we separate it into red blood cells, plasma and platelets,” said OneBlood spokesman Pat Michaels. “So one person could treat three different people,” he added.

Those who donate blood will receive a $20 e-gift card, a Big Red Bus T-shirt and a wellness checkup.

Recently, OneBlood started a program called “message my donor” where each unit of donated blood has a tag on it that goes to the hospital and that tag has an option for a patient, doctor or nurse to write a note which would go back to the donor. The donor and the recipient remain anonymous.

“We have had many of our donors tell us ‘I got this message back,’” Michaels said. “That hits home. We can give you a gift card or a T-shirt for saying thanks, but I think a big thanks is when you get a message from someone saying ‘thank you so much, you’ve given me blood.’ I think that’s the payoff in a big way,” he added.

The blood drives in honor of Garcia will take place on Thursday, May 9 at multiple locations across the Keys:

  • MCSO Substation Islamorada at 86800 Overseas Highway from noon to 6 p.m.
  • MCSO Substation Marathon at 3103 Overseas Highway from noon to 6 p.m.
  • MCSO Headquarters Key West at 5525 College Road from 2 to 7 p.m.
  • Berkshire Hathaway Keys Real Estate Big Pine Key at 30085 Overseas Highway from 12:30 to 5:30 p.m.
  • Kmart at Key Plaza Key West at 2928 N. Roosevelt Boulevard from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Donors may make an appointment at or 888-936-6283.

Kellie Butler Farrell
Kellie Butler Farrell is a journalist who calls Islamorada home. Kellie spent two decades in television news and also taught journalism at Barry University in Miami and Zayed University in Abu Dhabi, UAE. She loves being outside, whether spending time on the water or zipping down the Old Highway on her electric bike, Kellie is always soaking up the island lifestyle. Kellie and her husband own an electric bike rental company, Keys Ebikes.