FORT BEND COUNTY, Texas – Louis Palacios knew he was in trouble during lunchtime after he stopped at a Chick-fil-A in Rosenberg.
When he took a bite of his sandwich, it turned out to be a piece that was too big to handle.
The Fort Bend County husband and father of two was on the verge of choking to death.
"As I was choking I kind of just like, started thinking about my family, my kids," recalls Palacios. "And I'm like, 'Oh no, it ain't my time to go' you know? I know it's not my time to go, but at the same time it was already happening."
As panic set in, Palacios recognized a face.
Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls was at the restaurant eating lunch himself. Palacios made a beeline to the sheriff's table.
"It startled me because I didn't know who this individual is," says Nehls. "I think, 'Is he here to harm me possibly?' I didn't know who he was."
Nehls says he quickly realized Palacios was choking.
He performed the Heimlich maneuver, and after three or four strong thrusts the piece of chicken was dislodged and Palacios is here with his family to tell the story.
"I'm glad he was there at the time and I think things happen for a reason," says Palacios. "God had him there. God had us there for a reason for him to save me."
Nehls adds, "It's something that I've been trained to do, I'm in public service. I think anyone in that restaurant, though, would've done everything they possibly can to help Louis with his airway obstruction."
In Nehls' nearly 25 years of law enforcement, this was only the second time he has ever had to perform the Heimlich maneuver. The first time was just six months ago, when he says he helped a choking woman at a Green Bay Packers game in Wisconsin.
In addition to Wednesday's choking episode, Nehls and Palacios have a few other connections.
Nehls' wife is the principal of Palacios' son's elementary school.
Palacios also says his career goal is to become a deputy for Fort Bend County.