“The dangers of the job never used to concern me,” said O’Boyle, speaking to the Echo at his home in Sunnyside.
“I never blessed myself before I went out to work or anything like that — I guess I should. I’m just not bothered by fear. I think if you’re afraid, you’re not going to do your job properly.”
The shooting took place last Wednesday outside a housing project in Harlem, where O’Boyle was driving in an unmarked van with his partners Erik Hansen and David Broadwell. Four months earlier, he had been promoted to the plain-clothes NYPD anti-crime unit.
O’Boyle, who should have been on a meal-break at the time, spotted 31-year-old Terrell Harris carrying two guns as he walked along the street. He chased Harris for a couple hundred feet to a nearby building, where Harris opened fire, shooting O’Boyle in the leg, chest and grazing his head.
O’Boyle remembered everything about the incident up until the first shot hit him.
“I saw the guy with the gun and I jumped out of the unmarked car and chased him towards the building,” he recalled.
“He couldn’t get in, the door was locked. He turned and I asked him a couple of times to drop the gun and he made a motion like he was going to so and all of a sudden he just opened up on me. After I got hit, I went down, I don’t remember anything. I got shot in the groin area and I got one in the chest but the one that actually knocked me out was the one the head here. Next thing I knew I was in the ambulance.”
Harris fired 13 shots in total, also hitting Officer Hansen in the ankle, who shot back in order to protect himself and O’Boyle.
“I’m grateful to my partners, particularly Hansen, whom I believe saved my life,” O’Boyle said.
Harris eventually escaped into the building, where he later jumped from the 14th floor. He died last Thursday night after being taken off life support.
“You don’t want anyone to lose their life, it was unfortunate even though he didn’t have too much concern for me,” said O’Boyle.
“I feel sympathy for his relations — they certainly didn’t take his side judging by the newspaper articles. It’s unfortunate, what happened.”
O’Boyle was born in Brooklyn but returned to his parents’ homeland of Belmullet, Co. Mayo when he was four. He returned to New York in 1988, joining the NYPD 10 years ago at 33 years of age.
I was an old man when I joined,” he joked.
“I always had that desire, I always wanted to get into law enforcement. I’ve been lucky up to now, I’ve never had any major incidents. It’s the worst thing by far. Its uncommon to meet a guy with two guns and him shooting them both at once, it was chaotic.”
O’Boyle has suffered from insomnia and frequent headaches since the shooting and will be out of action until he is back to full health. Beyond the recovery process, he is circumspect about his future.
“I wasn’t thinking of retiring at all, right now I have no idea,” he admitted.
His colleagues and the public have hailed him as a hero, but O’Boyle is uncomfortable at the mere mention of the word.
“I think this is a big fuss,” he said.
“I don’t think anything went through my head at the time. I didn’t have time to think about what I was doing. I don’t police officer would have just driven past. That’s what we’re there for.”
However, less than two full days after the shooting, he fears its full impact may not have hit him yet.
“Within seconds it went from casual, driving around to a warzone,” he said.
“I haven’t had enough time to actually think about it, I’ve been preoccupied with being in hospital all the people coming to visit. Maybe in a few days it might gradually start sinking in that I was that close to being…” he trailed off.
The incident has not discouraged O’Boyle’s two children from wanting to follow in their father’s footsteps. 22-year-old Declan has already taken his first set of exams to get into the police academy (“he did very well,” according to O’Boyle), while 18-year-old Linda will attend John Jay College in the fall to study forensics.
O’Boyle’s wife Eileen is not sure how she feels about the prospect of seeing her children do such a dangerous job.
“I tell them maybe if I was a few years younger I would join too — that way I won’t be sitting home wondering which one’s going to call and say something’s gone wrong,” she laughed.
“But it’s their decision,” O’Boyle said. “If they want to go for it, that’s fine with me.”