When an officer is shot multiple times in the line of duty, it’s a blessing if he or she survives to speak about it. Survival is even sweeter when they can look their assailant in the eye as they speak about it — and help put them behind bars for 60 years in the process.
That was Officer Dan Doherty’s experience in January when, about 10 months after he was nearly killed in a violent shootout, he was able to appear in court to testify against the gunman, Myles Webster.
As Doherty retold his story to the court room, he watched Webster, 23, and reveled in the idea that this man had tried to kill him and failed.
“I was relieved to be able to look him in eye while testifying,” Doherty said. “He would look away. He tried to take my life; he couldn’t stand me looking at him. It was an overwhelming feeling.”
Judge Jillian Abrahamson sentenced Webster to 60-years-to-life in prison for the attempted assassination of Doherty, noting that the sentence was longer than some murder sentences because she hoped it would deter others from living the “thug life” Webster had idolized.
Night of the Incident
Doherty, of the Manchester (N.H.), Police Department, was working on the east side of town around 1830 hours March 21 when two undercovers radioed that a man appeared to be in an altercation with the occupants of a vehicle, as he stood in the midst of traffic with an apparent firearm in his waistband.
Doherty responded to the call, and minutes later he spotted Webster walking between houses.
Doherty parked his cruiser and pursued Webster on foot around the corner of a building. When he demanded the man put his hands up, Webster took off, and Doherty pursued him for about a half mile.
When Doherty was within arm’s reach, and prepared to tackle Webster, the suspect suddenly spun around, pulled the firearm from his waistband, and began shooting.
The next few moments were ones that Doherty will never forget.
He lost his footing as he tried to take cover and hit the ground, instantly feeling a bullet penetrate his shin.
“I could feel more rounds hitting me, and I can remember I thought I was getting shot in the face, but it ended up being the pavement around me chipping away that was hitting me,” Doherty said.
“I was able to return fire, and he retreated. He took a corner, turned back and continued firing at me as he ran.”
Webster fired four rounds that hit a nearby house. Then he took off, and attempted to carjack a woman in her vehicle a few blocks away before other officers arrived to apprehend him.
Meanwhile the undercover officers who originally made the call came to Doherty’s aid. It was their fast actions that are credited to saving his life, applying a tourniquet to his leg that minimized the amount of blood loss he suffered.
Doherty was shot three times in the left shin, once in the thigh that traveled through his stomach and exited his back, and a fifth bullet entered at his groin and remained lodged in his stomach.
The Recovery Process
Doherty remained in intensive care for three and a half weeks, and rehab for another two weeks. Earlier this month — and about three weeks after Webster was put behind bars — he returned to administrative work and anticipates returning to active work within the next few months.
On his arduous road to recovery, Doherty said it was the help of his fellow officers that stood out most.
“They were always bringing food to the house, visiting constantly; they were always there when I needed rides to therapy,” he said.
“One time some officers took me shooting while I was still in a wheelchair. The camaraderie level was something indescribable. I hope others in my position can have the same experience.”
When we asked who came to Webster’s hearings with him, Doherty couldn’t help but laugh.
“My mom and dad, my girlfriend, and as many officers as the courtroom would allow,” he said. “On any given day there were as many as 40-50 officers.”
Doherty was confident that they had a strong case, and was very satisfied with the sentence.
“My family was with me every step of the way, so I was more relieved that they had closure.”