On the same day a federal jury sentenced Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death for the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, the Transit Police officer who nearly died in a shootout in Watertown was promoted to the rank of sergeant.
Richard “Dic” Donohue Jr.’s parents pinned the new sergeant during a ceremony Friday morning at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Transit Police headquarters in Boston. His promotion came several hours before the 21-year-old Tsarnaev learned his fate.
“Just over two years after the events that impacted us as a community and a nation, we can finally close this chapter in our lives,” Donohue said in statement after the jury returned its decision. “The verdict, undoubtedly a difficult decision for the jury, gives me relief and closure as well as the ability to keep moving forward.”
Earlier in the day, Donohue, 35, reflected on his first day back in uniform in March. He said he was greeted by 5,300 unread e-mails and “a lot of hugs and handshakes.”
“I’ve been back a few weeks now, really getting my feet wet . . . I’ve been working toward that goal for quite a few years,” Donohue said. “I’m excited for my new position and excited to see where it takes me.”
He was one of five officers who were promoted, including four who attained the rank of sergeant. His wife, Kim, was at his side. The couple has 2½-year-old son.
Donohue’s mother said, “It’s a great experience to see him back to work.”
“My son has perseverance, strength. He’s got a wonderful wife, and he’s motivated so, yes, I would expect him to do this,” said Consuelo Donohue, who wore a blue dress and yellow scarf in a nod to the “Boston Strong” colors.
The firefight in which Donohue was injured erupted on April 19, 2013, after Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan, shot and killed Massachusetts Institute Technology Officer Sean Collier, 27, as he sat in his cruiser on the Cambridge campus. Collier and Donohue were friends and attended the police academy together.
During the altercation, the Tsarnaevs threw bombs at police as officers fired hundreds of rounds. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was fatally wounded in the shootout.
Donohue reflected on the efforts to save his life. During Tsarnaev’s trial, Dr. Heather Studley testified that Donohue was “essentially dead” when he arrived at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge.
He was revived through a series of blood transfusions and spent a month in the intensive care unit.
“Sometimes I think about how crazy it was and how lucky I am to be alive,” Donohue said. “Even just hearing Dr. Studley in the trial talk about what she did to help save my life and you just think, ‘Wow. That was close and thank God they were there.’ ”
Donohue said he still experiences pain, but has learned to manage it. He said he studied for the civil service promotion exam last summer after undergoing some surgeries and joked the experience was “pretty awful.”
He took the exam last October, said Transit Police spokesman Lieutenant Richard Sullivan. After the test, an assessment panel reviewed the candidates and Donohue ranked first on the promotion list, Sullivan said.
“We are extremely proud of Sergeant Donohue,” said Transit Police Acting Chief Kenneth Green. “He went through tremendous, tremendous work to get back to the level that he’s at now in order to return.”
Since his return, Donohue said, he has been assigned to the Special Crimes Unit, where he works on social media, drug investigations, and counterterrorism.
He learned of his promotion a couple of weeks ago and will undergo an orientation with the other promoted officers, Green said. Once the orientation is finished, Donohue will learn his new assignment, Green said.
Donohue said there were times when he considered leaving police work, but he ultimately decided to return. He credited Collier’s family and fellow police officers for their support.
“I can look back and say, ‘I’m lucky,’” he said. “I have a whole bunch of people that I can lean on for support.”