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Officer shot in face talks of journey to recovery

Hopes to be back with gang unit in 7-9 months

John Moynihan.
John Moynihan.Boston Police/Boston Police photo

Two months after he was shot point-blank in the face by a convicted felon, Boston Police gang unit Officer John Moynihan is looking forward to a morning when he wakes up, looks in the mirror, and sees a smile returning to his partially paralyzed face.

“I’m feeling OK, kind of one day at a time,” he said. “It’s a slow, gradual process, but I’m happy, and the doctors are happy.”

He recently had what he hopes will be his last surgery for a while, he said. In that procedure, doctors inserted nerves from his calf, foot, and the left side of his face into the right side of his face, where the bullet lodged on March 27. He attends physical therapy twice a week to help him regain the balance he lost when his eardrum was blown out.

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He is focused on getting back to work.

“I’m very fortunate to work with great guys. I enjoy what I do. I was happy with the way my life was going prior to March 27,” said Moynihan, who joined the Police Department six years ago as an officer in Dorchester and then moved to the gang unit in 2011. “I guess I want to get back to how my life was before then. I don’t want this one little incident to affect the rest of my life.”

Moynihan and five other officers were investigating a report of gunshots fired in the area of Humboldt Avenue in Roxbury when they stopped a sport utility vehicle with three men inside at 6:40 p.m. One of them, 40-year-old Angelo West, had a decades-long criminal record and had served time in prison for firing a gun during a struggle with police in the Theatre District in 2001.

Moynihan said the moments that led to the shooting are clear in his memory: He walked up to the car. West got out and raised his arm. At first, Moynihan thought West was going to punch him, but then he saw the .357 Magnum. He tried to bat it away. Then, he remembers falling.

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“I remember hitting the ground like a bag of rocks,” he said. “And saying to myself, ‘You just got shot in the face.’ ”

He tried to get up, he said, but he collapsed.

Surveillance video released by Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley shows that within seconds, Moynihan’s partners fired on West, who was killed.

“I just remember the guys who were there, just stepped up and saved [me],” he said. “Doing the outstanding job I knew they would.”

Getting well enough to go back to work could take seven to nine months, he said, or possibly more. Moynihan is matter-of-fact about the dangers of his job and the injury that required he be placed in a medically induced coma.

“You do something like this long enough, unfortunately something like this is going to happen,” he said. “I was the guy who drew the short straw that day.”


Evan Allen can be reached at evan.allen@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @evanmallen.