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'Scared I Was Going To Die': Female Boston Cop Recalls Horror of Shooting

October 06, 2004
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'Scared I Was Going To Die': Female Boston Cop Recalls Horror of Shooting

By Laurel J. Sweet, Boston Herald

Officer Zenaida Flores
The voice on the police radio quivered in terror and was barely intelligible - a lone, hysterical scream rising from somewhere in the concrete canyon of downtown.

"Alpha 202!" a woman staring into a fleshy, yawning hole in her own shattered forearm wailed for all she was worth. "I've been shot!"

Then, silence, more deafening than her cry for help.

"I was scared I was going to die," Zenaida Flores, 31, sobbed in court yesterday as the only female Boston police officer to be shot in the line of duty publicly shared for the first time the ill-fated stop that has kept her off the force since Aug. 27, 2002.

While detaining a convicted dope peddler in Chinatown who was wanted for questioning, Flores and her partner, officer Carlton Williamson, 41, allegedly found themselves being flung to and fro like rag dolls by 350-pound James Gaines, 24, a Waltham man they would learn too late had his finger on the trigger of an elephantine .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun.

"We were trying to control him, but I knew I didn't have any control over him at all," Flores, appearing haunted by her own memories, said in describing how she had fastened herself to Gaines' right arm and Williamson to his left.

As Gaines, a ninth-grade dropout whose defense attorney claims "didn't intend to hurt anyone," began to break out of his shredding shirt, Flores freed one hand to call for backup.

"I didn't get a chance," she said, her words strangled. "Two gunshots rang out right away. It picked me up off my feet and knocked me into the middle of the street. I remember I was face down on the ground, and I saw a big hole in my arm."

The other bullet, prosecutor Mark Hallal explained to jurors at Gaines' attempted-murder trial, had struck a pager clipped to Flores' gun belt directly over her stomach, deflected off its battery and exploding her Mace cannister.

"I was scared," Flores said. "I remember hearing gunshots right next to me and at some point I could sense someone standing over me. My body jerked off the ground and I realized I'd been shot again."

This time, a third bullet was buried in her leg right next to her femoral artery. Flores' blue uniform turned red with blood.

But the cop whose career was put on hold after only four years learned yesterday just how many friends she's made as her brethren stood two deep in Superior Court to be her moral support.

"Police officers are human beings, too," said Boston Police Commissioner Kathleen O'Toole, who comforted Flores before she took the witness stand. "I think it's important for people to know that."

Doc: Wounded Cop Barely Evaded Death

By Laurel J. Sweet, Boston Herald

Officer Zenaida Flores, pumped with so-called "cop-killer" bullets on a grimy Chinatown street, may have escaped bleeding to death by less than half an inch, one of the city's top docs testified yesterday.

Dr. Alasdair Conn, chief of emergency medical services at Massachusetts General Hospital, said the mushrooming hollow-point bullets that bore through the 31-year-old patrolwoman's left arm and thigh missed major arteries in both limbs by only "one to two centimeters."

In the leg wound alone, Conn said, a severed femoral artery would "bleed profusely. My sense is you could bleed out in one to two minutes. You would have no blood left."

Flores has not returned to duty since the Aug. 27, 2002, incident.

James "Heavy" Gaines, 24, of Waltham, a developmentally disabled 9th-grade dropout, is accused of the attempted murders of Flores and her partner, officer Carlton Williamson, 41.

Investigators believe the stolen .45-caliber semiautomatic weapon Flores was shot with was aimed less than a foot from her stomach when one round penetrated her pager, partially melting and shattering it into seven pieces.

Williamson, who was not injured, pursued Gaines through a maze of streets, firing off at least 12 shots, one of which struck Gaines in the arm. Unbeknownst to the officer, Gaines was out of ammunition when the foot chase began, evidence suggests.

Rochelle Janey, 42, a statuesque male prostitute, testified he was working Beach Street when the shootout began and was taking cover when Gaines, followed by Williamson, charged past.

Williamson "didn't look normal at all," Janey said, wincing, "like all the blood had drained from his face. His skin looked like a grave."

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