Boston special ops cop survives shooting; saved by protective vest

By Laurel J. Sweet, David Weber and Kevin Rothstein, The Boston Herald

BOSTON - A Boston police special ops cop whose partner took a bullet in the face less than a month ago was shot yesterday while he, too, was closing in on an armed and dangerous suspect during a dicey pre-dawn raid.

But unlike the still-healing Scott O'Brien before him, Officer Kevin Ford, 49, was spared life-threatening injury.

The .45-caliber Glock round that caught him by surprise when it punched through the cheap wooden door behind which suspected pot pusher James "J.J." Nolan, 25, was lurking, struck the bullet-proof vest over Ford's abdomen.

"It was like being hit with a Pedro Martinez fastball," said Lt. Robert E. O'Toole, commander of the elite Entry and Apprehension Team tapped by state police drug detectives to clear the way for their execution of a high-risk warrant at 515 Massachusetts Ave. in the city's South End.

"My heart was in my throat until I looked at Kevin (in the hospital) and he showed me this god-awful bruise and he laughed," O'Toole said. "I didn't know whether to kiss him or kill him."

The distressing case of deja vu for Boston police is all the more incredible because in the 40-officer entry team's nearly two decades of existance, Ford and O'Brien, 27, are the only two members to be shot in the line of duty.

Ford, who'll have the chance to celebrate his 50th birthday later this month, was the front-line "shield man" along with Officer Larry Martinez when the entry team came calling at 6 a.m. Nolan's third-floor walkup in the five-story brownstone is owned by his parents, Chestnut Hill residents James, a Harvard Medical School-educated pediatrician, and Bettie Ford, a nurse.

The couple's son, who's been arrested previously for assault and larceny but has no criminal record of convictions, was known to carry a Glock in his waistband, according to multiple sources.

Informants told police Nolan kept several pit bulls to protect his hydroponically-grown marijuana and also installed video surveillance cameras to warn him of intruders, but no dogs were present yesterday. A security camera was positioned above the main doorway to 515 Massachusetts Ave., where the entry team left shards of wood and a busted brass lock in in their wake.

According to Assistant Attorney General William Bloomer, who is prosecuting Nolan on charges including armed assault with attempt to murder, the entry team shouted "Boston police!" while climbing their way toward Nolan's flat.

Hearing no response, they pried open Nolan's yellow door and tossed in an explosive diversionary device. The next thing they knew, Ford had been shot, but he continued to move through the door to help apprehend Nolan.

Inside, Bloomer said the entry team found Nolan standing in his bedroom, gun still in hand and his seven-months pregnant girlfriend at his side. Not another shot was fired - by either side.

"He would have had to want to commit suicide by cop to continue shooting," O'Toole said of Nolan. "He gave up and threw the gun down."

Nolan, a Newton North High School graduate who also attended Milton Academy and Wheelock College, allegedly told the cops booking him later on, "I shot his ass, but I didn't know he was a police officer."

Police seized from his apartment several ounces of marijuana, as well as packaging materials. Nolan was ordered held on $ 50,000 cash bail.

Although the parents refused to talk, a friend of theirs who did not want to give his name said he's known J.J. since childhood.

"I don't know what happened," the friend said. "I'm just heartbroken."

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