Officers awarded for overcoming injuries

By Stewart Bishop
Globe Correspondent / May 17, 2011

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As a member of the Boston Police Entry and Apprehension Team, Scott W. O’Brien was routinely tasked with apprehending the most dangerous of criminals. In July 2006, as his team was searching a house looking for a suspect wanted in connection with an attempted shooting, O’Brien was shot three times, twice in the arm and once in the face.

Yesterday, at an award ceremony that honors select Boston police officers who return to active duty despite severe injuries, O’Brien reflected on the day that changed his life.

“Just the disbelief,’’ O’Brien, 35, of Pembroke said. “You never think it’s going to happen to you.’’

Despite his injuries, O’Brien managed to warn the other officers about the suspect, Horatio Mays, before getting treatment for his injuries. After several surgeries, O’Brien returned to duty less than a year later, and is now a sergeant assigned to District B-2 in Roxbury, according to a statement from Boston police.

Yesterday, O’Brien and another officer, Terrence S. Burke, 33, of Dorchester, were honored at a ceremony in the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Room at Faneuil Hall as recipients of the Theodore Roosevelt Association Boston Police Award, named in honor of the former US president. The award is given each year to an officer who is wounded or disabled and returns to duty instead of taking early retirement.

Winthrop Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt’s great-great-grandson, said the association’s award is a way of honoring the memory of the late president, who was also a former police commissioner in New York City, and to pay tribute to the sacrifices of officers injured in the line of duty.

In 2006, Burke, a reservist sergeant in the US Marine Corps, was on patrol in the Iraqi city of Fallujah when the Humvee he was riding in was struck by an improvised explosive device. Burke sustained several broken bones, a collapsed lung, severe burns, and later had to have his leg amputated.

During his recovery in Germany, Burke kept in close contact with his colleges in District C-6 in South Boston, and always insisted he would return to duty as a Boston police officer.

Burke kept his word, and when he returned to the United States, he was assigned to the Police Department’s crime scene response unit of the Bureau of Investigative Services. As part of the unit, Burke has excelled in forensic sciences, especially crime scene photography, according to Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis.

Before the ceremony, Davis praised the officers’ dedication and perseverance. “The courage and the strength that the officers have shown has been incredible. They not only survived their injuries but they have thrived as police officers after that, when both of them could have easily not come back to work,’’ Davis said. “They have police in their blood.’’

Stewart Bishop can be reached at