Eyewitness accounts are suggesting that Transit Police Officer Richard H. Donohue Junior, who was shot and nearly killed in Watertown, Massachusetts on April 19 may have been hit by a fellow officer.
According to the Boston Globe, Donohue, who works with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), was hit when police fired on suspected terrorist Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was making a getaway in a carjacked sport utility vehicle.
Donohue was reportedly shot during a gunfight in which at least a dozen police officers from four departments exchanged up to 300 rounds of gunfire with Dzhokhar's older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
Jane Dyson, who lives 140 feet from where the police officer was shot, told the Globe in a written statement that she saw Donohue collapse and fall to the ground near the end of the gunfight as 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev sped away. She wrote that the officer appeared to be a victim of 'friendly fire.'
'A black SUV appeared, and rapid gun fire was focused on the vehicle,' Dyson wrote, referring to the vehicle Tsarnaev allegedly drove in his escape. 'It appeared to me that an individual at the corner of the street fell to the ground and had probably been hit in the gunfire. I later learned that the individual who had been shot was Officer Richard Donohue,' she wrote.
The ongoing investigation suggests that the two suspects were unarmed when Dyson saw Donohue fall, suggesting that the shot that wounded him came from a fellow police officer. Two other witnesses reportedly support Dyson's account that Donohue appeared to be wounded in the final volley of shots fired at the fleeing suspect.
But none of the witnesses faulted the police. 'I don’t second-guess the actions the police took to stop these terrorists,' Dyson concluded. 'The police did a great job.'
'Considering the chaos on those dark streets, where a pair of homicidal terrorists were firing shots and throwing bombs at police, the fact that friendly-fire incidents may have occurred detracts nothing, not one bit , from the valor and heroism of the officers and troopers who caught up to them that night,' state police spokesman David Procopio told the Globe.
The shootout in Watertown, Massachusetts was unusual in that officers from as many as six different agencies all converged on the suspects in the middle of the night, with little time to coordinate efforts.
'It’s arguably a wartime situation,' Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum told the Globe. 'Police agencies are not generally prepared for the kind of wartime situation that these officers encountered.'
Donohue and his partner were among the first officers to arrive at the scene just moments after the two Tsarnaev brothers pulled over in the SUV they had allegedly car jacked.
In the ensuing 10 minutes, police officers fired what reports suggest was an unprecedented number of rounds in a single police incident in state history.
The shots reportedly wounded both suspects, but also sprayed the neighborhood. At least a dozen nearby houses were pockmarked with dozens of bullet holes, including a second-floor bedroom where two children slept.
Donohue arrived at Mount Auburn Hospital with almost no blood and no pulse, but doctors say he will probably make a full recovery. In a statement released last week, Donohue said the bullet 'will remain in my leg as it is not obstructing anything or causing any pain.'
Procopio announced this week that the friendly-fire investigation 'will take a good amount of time' because of the existence of 'a great deal of physical and ballistics evidence,' including the need to interview various witnesses.
'It is a complex investigation being conducted very methodically,' Procopio said.