Heroism Defined

Boston Bombing Heroes
By Debra Ann Faretra, M.A.

It was a beautiful Spring Day in Boston where thousands of participants were running the annual Boston Marathon when suddenly, not only their lives were changed, but the lives of the first responders tasked with working the event. First responders and every law enforcement agency on location had their work cut out for them on that unforgettable day.

Boston police officers were under extreme pressure when chaos abruptly erupted and turned a pleasurable event into a warzone. As a result, there were devastating casualties and injuries resulting in the loss of limbs and emotional paralysis.

In addition, Ventura County Sheriff Captain, Randy Pentis (Ret.), a race participant along with other officers from Boston and Chicago Police, heard the blast and immediately sprung into action assisting runners and spectators, while also securing areas during this critical situation. His account of the scene was pure mayhem and there was no time to think as he had to just rely on the skills he had mastered over the years along with fellow officers.

Subsequent to the bombing, the bombers were on the loose roaming Massachusetts on a murder and terror spree until they arrived at a small quiet residential area in Watertown.
Officer Reynolds received an alert at approximately 12:50 a.m. on the stolen Mercedes that the bombers had carjacked and were driving, as he made eye contact with the older bomber, who was sitting in the driver’s seat.

After making this observation, Officer Reynolds radioed his headquarters and was advised to standby and wait for backup to arrive before initiating a stop on the suspect vehicle. The seven year veteran officer was already feeling apprehensive from watching the news that evening, and seeing a fellow officer shot and killed by the bombers after the fatal explosions. What Officer Reynolds was soon to encounter went beyond the scope of his police duties, as he courageously prepared himself for battle.

As Officer Reynolds awaited his backup, the suspects got out of their vehicle and began firing upon his patrol car. Officer Reynolds mic’d up and screamed, “shots fired” as he began unloading his Glock 23. He immediately emptied one magazine and reloaded, as a barrage of heavy gunfire blasted his vehicle.

As backup arrived, guns were blazing, pipe bombs were being launched, and pressure cookers were thrown in their direction. It was dark and eerie and the bombers were ducking down between cars, but all that could be seen in between, were the lighters from the bombers lighting up their weapons. This morphed into a battlefield of explosives and gunfire. Police officers instantly became like soldiers fighting on American soil.

Sergeant Jeff Pugliese, a thirty-four year veteran of the police department and four year military police veteran, arrived on scene only to be told by another officer, “Sarge were being shot at,” his reply, “No shit!” Sgt. Pugliese made way through several yards and utilized a flanking maneuver to come up on the bombers from about twenty yards away. As he engaged gunfire, a pressure cooker was tossed as he stood between two houses and was instantly stunned.

Sgt. Pugliese had a visual on the older bomber and engaged in a gunfight striking him at least three or four times, but the bomber seemed unaffected by the shots. The bombers then were dodging behind cars, when Sgt. Pugliese took skip shots at their ankles, again striking the older bomber, who came out from the vehicle and opened fire in a one-on-one gunfight from a distance of about six feet away from each other.
Sgt. Pugliese and the older bomber both unloaded their weapons, which resulted in the older bomber throwing his gun at Pugliese, hitting him in the shoulder. Sgt. Pugliese heroically rushed the older bomber and a scuffle ensued. As he was attempting to handcuff him, the younger bomber sped off in the stolen Mercedes attempting to strike the officers, barely missing Pugliese’s head. The younger bomber added to the injuries of his critically wounded brother by running him over as he fled the scene.

The younger bomber was eventually apprehended and taken into custody by MIT Police.

The “Boston Bombers” efforts to blow up Times Square, NY were thwarted by a civilian and ultimately, members of the Watertown Police Department for their swift and heroic actions.

Sgt. Pugliese, aka “BAMF” (Bad Ass Mother Fucker) was coined after his one-on-one battle with the terrorists, which ultimately brought one of the terrorists down.

The warzone lasted approximately nine minutes, but had lasting effects for the officers involved. Some officers described the events, at the time, as numbing and overwhelming, with rushes and release of adrenaline that ultimately caused bodily aches and pains. Some describe flashbacks and difficulty sleeping, but for the most part, they have learned to process and live with this tragic event.

With tragedies of this nature, people involved never really experience life the same again. While most of us are relaxed in nature and don’t have to worry about running into battles, these heroes will always look over their shoulders and wonder if another one is to come. Precautionary measures to preserve life are taken to different levels. Events like this can have such a deep impact and leave permanent traces of battle wounds. This would keep a person in a semi state of fight or flight, as they may feel the need to be ready for the next battle; even though one isn’t present, the body won’t forget that it needs to be.

Watertown does not have a high crime rate and the officers weren’t expecting something of this magnitude to strike, but they handled it like true warriors.

The officers were awarded the Congressional Medal of Valor from Vice President Biden. Sergeant Jeffrey Pugliese, Officer Joe Reynolds, and others that had direct impact with the bombers were awarded the Congressional Medal of Bravery by Congress.

We owe our gratitude and heartfelt appreciation to all the officers and first responders involved in this heroic effort. I am honored to have met such fine members of our American police and they are a reminder of why I love this profession and am always here to help them.

These fine men were not just police officers; they were nothing less than warriors engaged in war on the home front. I am proud and honored to have had the opportunity to engage conversation on numerous occasions with these heroes.

The NJ BLUE NOW family sends their condolences to the victims of the Boston Bombing and to the family of Police Officer Sean Collier, who was shot and killed by the “Boston Bombers.” The victims of the Boston Marathon have shown true resilience after suffering mental and physical trauma.

We would also like to thank Chief Lawn with the Watertown Police Department for permitting this story, and for allowing us to show the rest of America what true heroes look like.

Debra Ann Faretra, M.A., is a Mental Health Educational Consultant for law enforcement. She has a masters in Police Graduate Studies from Seton Hall University. She attended Caldwell University for two years as a graduate in Clinical Counseling Psychology Studies and is completing a second master’s degree at Seton Hall University in Psychological Studies. She has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Criminal Justice. She currently works in Essex County, New Jersey.