We have been given exclusive inside access to tell you a remarkable story about two Rochester Cops. Dan Brochu and Luca Martini were ambushed answering a call for help. Believe it or not, they consider being shot a workplace injury. It will take the officers years to recover from a shooting that only lasted three or four seconds. It's a long road back to work "In the Line of Fire."
Rochester Cops say the West side Platoon hasn't been the same since Officers Dan Brochu and Luca Martini were ambushed in December of 2009.
"Top notch Officers" says RPD Officer Tim Waterman. "They take care of any problems that come their way. They back anybody up in any place in the city. Just all around good cops." Officer Nicole Tamburello says "There's definitely been an absence. You can feel it with everyone." And Sergeant Mike Jones: "The two of them are extremely hard workers, very dependable and competent people."
Brochu and Martini are partners. In the hospital they asked to share a room. They've encouraged each other throughout rehab. But each is driven by a personal, inner strength to work hard to get back to work. And 15 months after they were shot neither officer is where they want to be.
To better understand how far they've come, we asked their Orthopedic Surgeon at Strong Hospital to explain the gunshot wounds they received. Dr. John Gorczyca says Officer Martini was shot in the left hand as he pushed the gun away from his face. The bullet deflected into his kevlar vest.
"And it's pretty clear to me had he not been wearing the protective vest he probably would have died at the scene."
Doctor Gorczyca says a second shot shattered the bone in Martini's right arm. He showed us the x-ray. "And it shows some lead fragments from the bullet that went through the back of his arm and passed through the front side of his arm but didn't make it through the skin. So these are trapped inside his arm."
We looked at Officer Brochu's x-ray. He was shot in the right leg. "And the bone is broken into a lot of different pieces here. From here all the way down to here the bone is probably in about 20 different pieces."
Doctor Gorczyca says recent x-rays show Brochu and Martini are healing, but they'll have steel plates in their bodies forever. The struggle with rehab is even after broken bones mend, the pain doesn't go away. "The problem that the x-ray doesn't show is that these fractures tend to hurt for a year or two after the fracture has healed."
For two cops used to being active and fit, physical therapy has been slow and frustrating. Dan says "There are days that I come in with pretty high spirits and there's other days I need some motivation."
At LeRoy Physical Therapy, Physical Therapy Assistant Laurie Yaskulski says Dan's made impressive progress since he first hobbled in on crutches. "Now no crutches. He's doing pretty good. Still a lot of bone pain but he's come a long ways. He's very motivated. He will do anything you ask and try anything. If it hurts he'll let you know."
Luca does physical therapy at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Physical Therapist and Certified Hand Therapist Heather Smith says "He's a motivated patient. I wish all my patients were as motivated as him. He does a great job, he's always here. He comes twice a week and he works to his fullest when he's here."
The professional approach the officers are taking to physical therapy has been inspiring. "It's nice to see somebody that wants to go back to their job" says Smith. "He loves his job and when he comes here he treats this as his job too. Because he's trying to get himself rehabbed so he can go back to that."
Doctor Gorczyca is equally impressed. "It's been remarkable to watch them. I feel sometimes like I'm more of a cheerleader than a physician because I'm just coaxing them to stay at it because it is a long recovery from these injuries."
And after spending time with Brochu and Martini, we've learned it takes uncommon character to be a cop. Luca says he considers being shot three times a workplace injury, "In my mind yes, that's the way I'm looking at it. It is what it is, I was hurt at work and that's the way I was looking at it, that's the way I'm still looking at it. And this is just part of the process to get through it."
"I love what I do, first and foremost" says Dan. "It was a commitment I made to the citizens of the city to myself and my family. I'm not the type of person that wants to sit there and wait. I want to be back out there doing what I love to do. I'm passionate about what I do for work and I just want to be back there."
We invite you to check out our Web Extra with Doctor Gorczyca as he describes what it was like in the Strong Emergency Department the night Officers Brochu and Martini were shot.