BOSTON – With a bullet still in his body, the police officer who survived a showdown with the Boston Marathon bombing suspects said Sunday he's determined to return to duty.
Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Officer Richard Donahue has been recovering alongside victims injured in the April 15 attack by the marathon's finish line since his transfer to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston on Friday.
The 33-year-old uses crutches to get around now, and is coping with nerve damage that makes it painful to walk and difficult to sleep. But sitting alongside his wife Kim Donahue, the transit officer said he's getting stronger and healthier every day.
Besides building strength to walk on his own, Donahue also is doing speech therapy and other exercises to prepare his mind and body to head home again. He said he's looking forward to the end of his hospitalization so he can spend more time with his 7-month-old son, who's gotten four new teeth in the meantime, and toss a ball around with his family's beagle.
Donahue doesn't recall anything about the gun battle that left him wounded on a street in suburban Watertown. His last memory from the day he almost bled to death is roll call at the start of his shift.
That was hours before Donahue responded to the call that came after authorities say bombing suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev fatally shot his police academy friend, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Officer Sean Collier.
It was in Watertown that Donahue suffered a severed femoral artery when a bullet pierced his groin during a gun battle with the Tsarnaev brothers.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev died on the same street where Donahue was wounded. Authorities have said Dzhokhar Tsarnaev drove over his brother while fleeing the scene after Tamerlan, 26, ran out of ammunition and was tackled by officers.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev's cause of death was listed as gunshot wounds and blunt trauma to his head and torso.
But Donahue, an MBTA officer of three years, has no memory of the encounter that nearly killed him.
"As of right now, it's all been a blackout," he said.
Exactly how Donahue was wounded isn't clear. He said if his injury turned out to be from a fellow officer's bullet, he was just glad police "got the job done" at a chaotic scene where authorities said the suspects tossed explosives and fired on officers.
"If it was friendly fire, it was friendly fire, he said. "We got the job done and the other suspect got captured shortly thereafter, so I'm just happy with that."
The transit officer said he is in favor of authorities filing additional charges against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in connection with Collier's death and his own close call. But he wouldn't say if he favored the death penalty in the case of a guilty verdict for the 19-year-old, who remains in a prison hospital after his arrest.
"One of them, I guess, has already been brought to justice," Donahue said of Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
Donahue's wife said she's proud of her husband, and while they won't use the word "hero" a lot at home, their 7-month-old son will have a lot to live up to as he grows up.
"We keep saying he's not going to be able to get away with anything. Like, 'Oh, you don't want to eat your green beans? Well, Daddy's got a bullet in his leg and came back from the dead. So, if you could do us a favor and just eat your food that would be great,'" the 31-year-old mom said with a smile.
MBTA Police Chief Paul MacMillan nodded in approval Sunday as he heard Donahue talking about getting back into the shape he was before the line of duty shooting.
"I think it's absolutely incredible the effort that was put into saving his life that night and the fact that he has come so far," the chief said later. "... We'd love to get him back, but we want him to get well first and foremost."