Manchester officer Daniel Doherty back to full strength, determined to serve
"I wanted to finish the career I started," said Doherty.
Easier said than done.
But despite wounds that required a titanium rod in his left leg and multiple surgeries to repair the serious damage bullets did to his leg and lower body, Doherty, 26, returned to work this week.
When he appeared for roll call, it surprised many of his fellow officers who expected a longer recuperation.
Doherty said he had a conversation with his doctor last week. "I want to go back to work," he said. "Medically I'm cleared. Physically and mentally able to be out on the street," he said. And he can hardly wait to be out on the street.
"I missed it a lot," he said. He's now working with the training unit, getting all of his qualifications updated. "I know they are watching closely," he said, but he made sure he could easily beat the physical standards for his age group before returning.
When will he be back on the street, at first with a partner? "Within the next two weeks," he said. "I'm anxious to get out (on patrol)."
But last March 21, it was unclear whether Doherty would even survive the wounds he sustained when, during a foot pursuit, Webster stopped, spun around and fired his .357 Glock semiautomatic at Doherty.
As he lay on the pavement at Rimmon and Wayne streets that evening, with blood pouring from his wounds and Webster standing over him, Doherty said a fog settled over his mind and he realized he could die. But he wasn't willing to accept that, so he raised his weapon and returned fire, driving Webster away.
Tests on Doherty's gun indicated that one of Webster's bullets hit the barrel of Doherty's gun, held in his outstretched hand, and was deflected. That bullet was aimed for Doherty's head.
Doherty said training prepares officers for the possibility of being shot. Now, he said: "I know first hand that it's real."
He said we tend to think of police officers being shot as happening far away, in big cities. "I think a lot of people think it doesn't happen here," he said. But within weeks of his wounding, he said, four officers were wounded and Chief Michael Maloney was killed in Greenland, and little more than a month after that, a Springfield, Mass., officer was killed responding to a domestic incident.
Doherty said he truly believes "everything happens for a reason."
He normally wouldn't have been working the shift that put him on the West Side in pursuit of Webster, but he had swapped shifts in anticipation of a vacation to the Virgin Islands.
The surgeons who operated on Doherty after the shooting credited his youth, his physical condition and the fellow officer who put a tourniquet on his left leg, as well as the EMTs who sped him to nearby Catholic Medical Center for his survival.
"I'm glad they kept me at CMC, instead of flying me to Boston," said Doherty, who had high praise for the medical personnel there, as well as the therapists who literally got him back on his feet.
He was pleased that by the time of a motion hearing for the Webster case in November, nine months after he was shot, he was able to walk smoothly to the witness box in Hillsborough County Superior Court North in full uniform and testify that he was "one hundred percent" sure that Webster was the shooter.
He was still having problems with his left leg, but was determined not to show it. He's been told that Webster's face showed surprise at his confident walk, perhaps expecting someone obviously disabled.
Doherty said Webster's conviction and sentence - 60 years to life - was more of a relief to his parents than to him. Doherty said he doesn't think about Webster. "He shot the uniform," he said, not Dan Doherty.
Doherty said: "Our goal, our job is to make the quality of life better for people." That's why officers put themselves in danger.
"But there's a person inside the uniform," he said, and not everyone realizes that.
He said he's grateful for the people here who did think of him as a person after he was shot, people who sent good wishes, who prayed, who gave blood in his name.
Last March when the Manchester Policemen's Wives Association quickly put together and held a blood drive for Doherty, the American Red Cross was able to collect 326 pints from 400 would-be donors.
This year, Doherty will be on hand for the second blood drive put on by the Manchester Policemen's Wives Association this Saturday at McDonough Elementary School, 550 Lowell St., from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
He's hoping the predicted nor'easter doesn't materialize and cut down on donors, because he appreciates the importance of blood donations and community support.
He and his family took out a newspaper ad last May to thank everyone for their support and he said again Wednesday that he wants to express his thanks to all who offered support.
Doherty would now like to fade into the background, but understands that he is a hero to some and an inspiration to others, and is willing to help when he can.
Last week, in anticipation of the Battle of the Badges ice hockey game to benefit the Children's Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, Doherty visited with patients at the hospital in Lebanon.
This year, it's not the police vs. fire, but rather an East-West challenge, with firefighters and police on both teams for the sixth annual fundraising game, starting at 5 p.m. Saturday, March 16, at Verizon Wireless Arena.
Doherty had been scheduled to skate in last year's game and, amazingly, is ready to take the ice in this year's game.
He's been playing hockey for the past few weeks and said he believes in muscle memory. He's pleased with his skating and how it's helped him physically overall.
His immediate goal: "To successfully play in the CHaD game." He's predicting it will be close.
Doherty, co-captain of the West Team with Manchester Police Lt. Peter Favreau, said six Manchester officers are on the team. "The teams this year are going to be very well balanced," he said.
The financial goal of the Good v Good hockey game is reaching $1 million raised for CHaD in six years. Teams and individual players can be sponsored at chadhockey.org.