Sergeant John MacLellan of the Watertown Police Department knew something was wrong when fellow officer Joe Reynolds looked up at him with wide eyes in the middle of a firefight with the alleged Boston Marathon bombers.
“He said, ‘Sarge, I can’t stop the bleeding’ ” of MBTA police officer Richard Donohue, who had been shot, MacLellan recalled to hundreds of Watertown residents Thursday evening at a ceremony honoring first responders to the bombings and the subsequent firefight. “Dic Donohue was one of the first people to come help save my life, and now he laid on the ground, mortally wounded,” MacLellan said.
Donohue didn’t die. Reynolds and Watertown firefighters James Caruso and Patrick Menton, along with others, managed to keep him alive. MacLellan recounted the harrowing story as he gestured to Donohue, who had carefully made his way on crutches to the front of the Perkins School for the Blind auditorium.
“I think it’s the Super Bowl of police work to save another officer’s life, and Menton and Reynolds saved his life,” MacLellan said.
The story of saving Donohue’s life was one of many told. Awards, plaques, and commemorative pins were distributed at the ceremony, which was paid for with about $9,000 in donations from local organizations, businesses, and schools, said Watertown Town Council president Mark Sideris. One check for $12,000 was presented to Donohue from the Watertown Fire Department, a culmination of months’ worth of selling “Watertown Strong” shirts. Thursday’s event came just hours after Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s federal indictment was released.
The event honored others as well: Watertown Sergeant Jeffrey Pugliese, who rushed to the scene of the shooting in his family minivan, then ran through several backyards to get to the scene. He began firing. “If he didn’t do that, I don’t know what could have happened,” MacLellan said.
Reynolds was one of the first officers to be attacked by the Tsarnaev brothers, who opened fire on his cruiser.
MacLellan himself used his brand-new cruiser as a distraction, letting it crash, driverless, as he leapt out to take cover.
Firefighters Menton and Caruso, along with others, administered aid to Donohue on the concrete. They helped place him into the back of a Watertown ambulance as Watertown Police Officer Tim Menton, the firefighter’s brother, reflexively jumped into the driver’s seat.
More officers and firefighters responded to MacLellan’s radio calls for help with “boxes of ammunition” and backup support, MacLellan said.
“If they didn’t continue to fight, I have no doubt [the alleged bombers] would have killed more,” Police Chief Edward Deveau said.
“We look at things a little bit differently now,” MacLellan said. “I mean, we’re back to normal, but everything’s a little different now.”