A bullet shattered the windshield of Officer Mark Gibbons’s cruiser, missing his forehead by an inch. The Woburn police officer crouched behind his car as more slugs punctured the metal, then he ducked out and squeezed off half a dozen rounds, dropping the man who had shot a fellow officer and held hostage a jewelry store full of people.
Almost two years later, Gibbons is hesitant to take credit for his actions, which saved the life of at least one man and possibly more.
That’s why he felt so strange Monday to be at the John Joseph Moakley US Courthouse as he received the Congressional Badge of Bravery, the highest honor a law enforcement officer can earn, while three members of Congress and the state’s attorney general looked on.
Others are not shy about lavishing him with praise.
“He’s a very quiet individual,” said Woburn police Chief Robert Ferullo. “The thing is, he’d do it again this afternoon if he had to.”
Gibbons said that while it was an honor to receive the congressional badge, “It would have been nice if Officer [Robert] DeNapoli got the award with me.”
DeNapoli was shot six times Sept. 6, 2011, while foiling the attempted robbery at Musto Jewelers. He is alive today, said Ferullo, because Gibbons drove his cruiser into a hailstorm of bullets to draw fire away from the wounded Napoli and then shot Antonio Matos, the 27-year-old gunman.
After the flurry of shots subsided, Gibbons ran to Matos, handcuffed him, then ripped off his shirt and began administering first aid.
Matos and three other people pleaded guilty to robbery charges May 6. Matos received the harshest sentence: 25 to 30 years in prison, according to the Middlesex district attorney’s office.
“You can’t dwell on danger,” Gibbons said, and it seems to be his family’s motto.
On May 4, 1999, his older brother Jack, also a Woburn police officer, died of a heart attack after being wounded on duty. Gibbons’s father was a police officer for 38 years and survived a machine-gun fight.
In addition, his brother is a firefighter, his nephew will soon join the Woburn Police Department, and his twin 19-year-old sons are studying law enforcement at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, he said.
“My family has gone through this already and buried one brother,” Gibbons said. “Ever since we were kids we knew the deal.”Todd Feathers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow him on Twitter @ToddFeathers.