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MBTA officer hangs tough in recovery from shooting

After Watertown ordeal, Richard “Dic” Donohue making progress

MBTA Transit Police Officer Richard Donohue

JESSICA RINALDI FOR THE GLOBE

MBTA Transit Police Officer Richard Donohue stretched his legs at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital.

Officer Richard “Dic” Donohue of the MBTA Transit Police remembers almost nothing of the night he was shot during chaotic gunfire on a normally quiet Watertown street, or of the murder of his close friend, MIT police Officer Sean Collier, hours before in Cambridge.

But on Sunday, about a month after he was seriously wounded, Donohue, looking relaxed, sat next to his wife, Kim, in the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital gym overlooking the harbor and the Boston skyline.

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“This afternoon I’m feeling pretty decent,” he said with a smile. “I’m moving around on crutches a fair bit; the pain’s not too bad. I’m getting stronger and healthier by the day. It’s a good feeling.”

Donohue, 33, iced his leg, his crutches nearby, as he spoke about the pain he suffers from nerve damage.

“I’m definitely not 100 percent, and I definitely have nights where I don’t sleep well; I sleep a couple hours here and there,” said Donohue. “[I’m] working through it and working around it with the doctors and physical therapists and trying to move forward.”

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In the early morning of April 19, Donohue was called to the scene of the shoot-out in Watertown, where more than 300 shots were exchanged between police and the bombing suspects, brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

He was struck in the right groin area by a bullet that severed his femoral artery and caused profuse bleeding. The bullet is still inside him.

JESSICA RINALDI FOR THE GLOBE

“I’m getting stronger and healthier by the day,” said Donohue, shown with his wife, Kim.

Donohue was rushed to Mount Auburn Hospital, where he was operated on and monitored until he was moved to the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Charlestown on Thursday.

“He had severe blood loss,” said Kim, 31. “A doctor came and told me he barely had a drop left by the time they got to him.”

Donohue said he cannot recall much from the night Collier was shot and the subsequent shoot-out. When he woke up in Mount Auburn Hospital, he did not understand why he was there.

“I wasn’t shot,” Donohue responded when Kim and his brother told him what had happened.

In disbelief, he turned to medical personnel and received the same answer: Yes, you were shot. Only later did he realize how serious his situation was.

Family and friends kept him from watching television news to protect him from learning more about the bombings until he was ready.

They also did not want him to find out from TV about the death of Collier, with whom he graduated from the police academy. During the interview Sunday, Donohue wore a “Collier Strong” bracelet around his wrist.

“It was a lot of information for someone in that type of pain to process,” said Kim.

Slowly, memories began to return.

He remembered eating lunch in Cleveland Circle the day of the Boston Marathon.

“That was the first thing I remembered,” he said. “Then I started piecing things back together . . . up until the day when I was shot. The last thing I remember was being at roll call [on April 18] and talking to somebody there.”

Later that night, Donohue was at Collier’s murder scene, despite the night being a blank to him.

“I had already been to Sean’s scene; there’s videotape of me being there,” he said. “I had made text messages and phone calls that I looked at a couple days later, but I don’t physically recall being there. . . . It could all come back tonight, tomorrow, a year from now, but as of right now it’s all a blackout.”

Collier is still very much on the Donohues’ minds. Kim said she felt him watching over them when her husband was wounded.

“He was there that night saying, ‘Hey, I don’t need a friend up here right now with me,’ ” she said. “I feel like Sean’s really been watching Dic through the entire thing. . . . We talk about Sean every day and we think about Sean every day and that will probably never change for us.”

The shoot-out is still under investigation, but the Globe has reported that multiple eyewitnesses said Donohue was hit by another officer.

“If it was friendly fire, it was friendly fire,” Donohue said. “We got the job done and the other suspect got captured shortly thereafter, so I’m just happy with that. It doesn’t bother me.”

He was told the gun battle was “mayhem,” he said.

“There were bombs thrown, some of which didn’t even go off completely; there was hundreds of shots fired and it was just crazy, you know?”

But both suspects were stopped, he said, and that was what mattered most.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was killed in the shoot-out. His brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, was wounded and later arrested. He is being held at Federal Medical Center Devens.

“Of course you have anger,” he said. “I couldn’t process it then and I couldn’t tell you how I was feeling then . . . but I’m glad the second suspect has been caught.”

When asked if Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who faces federal charges that could bring the death penalty, should be executed, Donohue declined to comment. The state and federal government can handle it however they see fit, he said.

As for charges being brought, Donohue said he wants justice.

“The more [charges] the better,” he said. “Crimes were committed against me, against Sean, against the community, people’s houses, cars were wrecked, lives were ruined . . . there has to be some consequences to pay.”

Although Donohue continues to improve, it remains unclear when he will be headed home to Kim and their 7-month-old son, or when he will return to work.

“It could be a couple weeks; it could be a couple days; I don’t know,” he said about his condition. “We’re just playing it by ear and seeing how each physical therapy session goes.”

Derek J. Anderson can be reached at derek.anderson@globe.com.
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