WOBURN — Every time he opens his eyes, Robert DeNapoli is vividly reminded of what he lost on Sept, 6, 2011, when a robber fleeing an armed heist at a Woburn jewelry store shot him over and over again as he crouched behind his cruiser, trying to call for help.
DeNapoli was badly injured. He lost the tip of his index finger, and he is blind in his left eye. He cannot return to the job he loves.
“The scars, they’ll be there forever,” he said. “I’m just not the same person I was when I was a police officer.”
On Monday, DeNapoli, 51, watched silently from the front row of a courtroom in Middlesex Superior Court as the man who shot him pleaded guilty to a raft of charges, including masked armed robbery and armed assault with intent to murder. Three accomplices also pleaded guilty.
Antonio Matos, 27, who prosecutors say shot DeNapoli, received a sentence of 25 to 30 years in prison. Hector Baez-Cruz, 23, received 20 to 25 years in prison; and Erianiss Murillo, 18, and Allegra Martinez, 19, each received seven to eight years. All will have to pay restitution to DeNapoli and another officer.
“There’s never enough years to put somebody away when you’re the victim,” DeNapoli said as he stood outside the courthouse after the sentencing Monday afternoon. “It’s one of those things where you’re not really fulfilled.”
Judge S. Jane Haggerty called the crime “one of the worst armed robberies that I have seen.”
According to prosecutors, Matos, Baez-Cruz, Murillo, and Martinez planned for months to rob Musto Jewelers in Woburn.
On the day of the robbery, said Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan, employees buzzed in Murillo. As the door opened, Murillo stepped aside, and Matos and Baez-Cruz rushed in, both masked and brandishing weapons, ordering everyone to the floor.
Matos filled a bag with $150,000 worth of jewelry, and Matos and Baez-Cruz fled. But, unbeknownst to the two men, someone had called police.
DeNapoli, a 16-year veteran of the department, was the first to arrive, and Matos opened fire, hitting him several times and shooting the gun out of his hand, taking with it the top of his index finger. DeNapoli tried to use his cruiser as a shield, but Matos jumped onto the hood of the car and sent another barrage of bullets down onto the trapped officer, hitting him several more times. Either a bullet or a piece of shrapnel struck DeNapoli in the eye.
Matos was wounded by police as he tried to flee and was arrested. Baez-Cruz, Martinez, and Murillo escaped and were arrested later.
As bullets flew in Matos’s shoot-out with police, one bullet hit a passing car, and lodged in the armrest of a 3-year-old boy’s booster seat. The boy was not injured.
The victims submitted impact statements, but they were sealed by the court.
“When I read through the victim impact statements, it was heartbreaking to hear what these people had to say in terms of the trauma they sustained at your hands, all motivated by greed and so well planned,” said Haggerty.
All four defendants were calm throughout the hearing and showed little emotion. Ryan said that a year after shooting DeNapoli, Matos sent a detailed and “boastful” letter to a friend recounting his crime, lamenting the loss of the stolen jewelry, and complaining that the media had made him into “the bad guy.”
None of the defendants appeared to look at DeNapoli as they left the courtroom. DeNapoli spent the hearing, which lasted several hours, sitting close to his wife and the Woburn police chief. Behind him, benches were packed with supporters, including many uniformed Woburn officers.
“He was the heart and soul, the lifeblood of the department,” said Woburn Police Chief Robert J. Ferullo, Jr. “He was the guy that kept us going in tough times.”
Ferullo said that one of DeNapoli’s sons already works for the Woburn Police Department and that he is hoping to hire DeNapoli’s other son soon.
DeNapoli, a private man who initially declined to speak with reporters, said that the realization that he could not be a police officer anymore was the hardest thing to bear.
“That’s the toughest part, because I haven’t worked,” he said. “I’m a guy that likes to work.”Evan Allen can be reached at email@example.com.