Eyewitnesses of the shootout that killed one of the Boston bombing suspects believe that police officer Richard Donohue was injured and almost killed by his colleagues, who were firing at the fleeing suspect.
In a 10-minute shootout in Watertown, Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev was fatally injured, while his brother Dzhokhar escaped. Donohue, a 33-year-old transit officer, took a gunshot to his right thigh and suffered severe blood loss that sent him into cardiac arrest and almost killed him.
With a severed femoral vein and artery, the wounded officer lost all of his own blood and his heart stopped beating for 45 minutes before he was resuscitated.
Initial reports made no mention of the cause of Donohue's gunshot wounds, but newly-released eye reports suggest that he was struck by friendly fire. Rob Mullen, a Watertown resident and eyewitness, told the Boston Globe that he watched as all the officers fired simultaneously at the black SUV that the Dzokhar used to escape.
“Every cop out there just unloaded everything he had on the SUV,” Mullen said, recalling the scene as he saw it from the second-floor window of his house on Laurel Street.
Watertown resident Jane Dyson told the Globe that she watched the SUV speed away “with that appeared to be several police officers running close behind, firing weapons, trying desperately to stop the vehicle.”
Up to 300 rounds of ammunition were fired during the violent shoot-out to capture the Boston bombing suspects, but there is little evidence that Dzhokhar was in possession of a gun. The Tsarnaev brothers allegedly set off a number of explosives, including another pressure cooker bomb and pipe bombs.
By the time Donohue was hurt, Tamerlan Tsarnaev was handcuffed, injured and run over by the SUV his younger brother was driving as he tried to escape.
The transit officer allegedly fell to the ground as Dzhokhar was
driving away, which suggests that his colleagues were responsible
for his injuries and near-death experience. Neither suspect
was armed and firing when Donohue was hit with a bullet.
Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, told the Globe that the shoot-out was a “wartime situation”, which “police agencies are not generally prepared for”.
Facing exploding devices and frantically trying to capture America’s most wanted men, bullets were flying in all directions.
David Procopio, a state police spokesman, said that even if the allegations about the friendly fire are correct, they don’t detract anything from the heroism demonstrated that day.
“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,” he said.
But US police have been known to cause accidental injuries even in situations that are not as “warlike” as the Watertown shootout. Police were at fault for all nine of the injuries during a shooting at the Empire State building last year.
The narrative changes when police are at fault for their colleagues’ injuries, but the spokesman for the Massachusetts police believes that allegations of friendly fire will not in any way detract from the courage of the officers at Watertown.