The way the nation met 33-year-old MBTA Transit Police officer Richard Donohue was — like much of the conflicting information from that night of mayhem in Watertown, Massachusetts — violent, fast, and scary: He was exchanging fire with the Tsarnaev brothers, the story went, and he took a gun shot to his right thigh from the Boston bombing suspects — an injury that would see Donohue lose all of his own blood, sever three blood vessels, send him into cardiac arrest, and almost die. Now comes a more complete picture, with more eyewitnesses telling a new story, that Donohue was probably shot by a fellow police officer.
The Boston Globe has a long story in today's paper with new accounts from Watertown residents who witnessed "the climactic moment in the confrontation, when Dzhokhar Tsarnaev drove between two groups of police officers amid police gunfire" in the early morning of April 19. Jane Dyson lives less than 200 feet from where Donohue went down:
"A black SUV appeared, and rapid gun fire was focused on the vehicle," Dyson wrote in a statement provided to the Globe, 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."
Dyson's account of the guns-blazing getaway seems to indicate that Donohue was shot while Dzhokhar was fleeing (and running over his brother) and that the gunfire was one-way, not an exchange between the suspects and the cops. Indeed, the Globe reports that the Tsarnaev brothers were no longer armed as Dzhokhar drove away, which would seem to align with updated reports about the next day that the younger Tsarnaev brother was not, in fact, armed when authorities captured him in a Watertown boat.
The Globe adds that Dyson, the neighbor, offered to make a statement to police officials, but it remains unclear whether or not she did. (The DA's office in Middlesex and Massachusetts state police are reviewing three possible accidental shootings in the manhunt "as part of a broader criminal investigation.") But the paper backs up Dyson's story with new eyewitness accounts from other residents: "Two witnesses support Dyson's account that Donohue appeared to be wounded in the final volley of shots fired at the fleeing younger suspect."
So one of the most closely followed victims of the Boston Marathon aftermath may have gone down by gunfire from one of the six law enforcement agencies on hand. He's still one of Boston's absolute bravest. But it does give us a clearer picture of a night when some 300 bullets were fired, and of situations in which cops are caught in the line of so much fire it's hard to keep straight: Remember the Empire State Building shootings last year, when police officers shot and wounded all nine bystanders injured in the incident?
Even though Dyson's eyewitness account may knock down the cops-versus-terrorists shootout narrative a peg, she's the first to acknowledge that mayhem can lead to accidental violence. "I don’t second-guess the actions the police took to stop these terrorists," the Watertown resident tells the Globe. "The police did a great job."