As Constable John Connolly lay on the road while teenagers kicked him in the face and body, he thought, "I could die here."
The 39-year-old Papakura officer last night told Police Minister Judith Collins from his Middlemore Hospital bed how on Friday, he stepped in to break up a fight between teenage girls near his home in Tuakau, south of Auckland.
"He said something that stuck in my mind," the minister recalled.
"He said, 'I'd do it again in a heartbeat.' He stepped in to help a girl. He's very convinced that he saved her, that if he hadn't helped, she would have been far worse off," Ms Collins said.
Mr Connolly, who spent 15 years in the British Army before moving to New Zealand about seven years ago, described how, while walking his German shepherd Sam, he came across the brawl involving at least 20 people, some thought to be students of the nearby Tuakau College.
While trying to separate the group, he was struck from behind. "He was lying on the footpath, in the gutter and he was thinking, 'I could die here'," Ms Collins told the Herald.
Neighbours went to his aid, which he was most grateful for, the minister said. The officer suffered severe injuries including a fractured skull, multiple facial fractures, a collapsed lung, broken jaw and a broken ankle.
Ms Collins said Mr Connolly was to have surgery today.
"He said, 'People expect us to do that when we're off duty, a police officer to help out'. I said, 'Yes, you're right'."
A team of detectives and uniformed officers has been increased to help with the investigation.
A special assembly will be held this morning at the college to encourage students to come forward with more information. Counselling will be offered to students.
Ms Collins also visited the Whangarei officer whose lip was bitten during a violent attack. He is expected to be discharged from Auckland City Hospital today.
Just before midnight on Friday, he and another officer stopped a suspected drunk driver in Kamo St, Whangarei. The driver allegedly became aggressive and attacked the constable.
Reo Rangipohewa Uerata, 29, has been charged with offences including drink-driving, threatening to kill, resisting arrest and assault.
* Witnesses to the Tuakau attack or parents of the teenagers involved are encouraged to phone the Counties Manukau police on (09) 295-0200 or the Crimestoppers line anonymously on 0800-555-111.