Watertown Rescue’s Actions Helped Save MBTA Officer’s Life

It was a typical 24-hour shift for Watertown Fire Department firefighters James Caruso and Patrick Menton assigned to the department’s rescue ambulance; a few medical calls and some training.

Pretty routine for a Thursday, Caruso would remember. 

But the everyday would within minutes transform into a maelstrom of bullets and bombs. The pair rushed to aid a police officer in a Watertown neighborhood, hit in an exchange of gunfire with the alleged Boston Marathon bombers. 

“From calm to chaos,” said Menton.

Caruso and Menton have worked together periodically on the ambulance which is Caruso’s assignment. In fact, Menton was only scheduled to accompany Caruso after James’ usual partner’s wife gave birth earlier on April 18.

The pair — Westford-native Caruso and Menton who was born, raised and is living in Watertown — who joined the department together eight years ago, would be on the 8 a.m. to 8 a.m. shift.  

Earlier in the week, the department put a second rescue unit on duty as a result of the Boston Marathon bombing, but were not called into the city.

It was a fairly quiet night Thursday, until just after midnight when the chatter on the radio began picking up from dispatchers and police and fire: an officer shot and killed at MIT, a car jacking, a wild car chase heading west along Memorial Drive in the direction of Watertown.

Then around 12:45 a.m., dispatch relayed to Watertown Rescue the call of “officer down” during a running gun battle along Laural Street with two heavily-armed suspects.

Despite the hundreds of round-fired and pipe bombs lying on the street, the pair raced to the heart of the battle.

“We didn’t know there had been shots fired, but all we knew was there was an officer needing help so we went in. That was it,” said Caruso.

“It was a bit nerve-wracking but instincts just kicked in so you are not really thinking about it,” said Menton. 

When Caruso and Menton arrived, they were waved to the intersection of Laural and Dexter where they found a group of officers in a driveway. Jumping out of the truck’s cab, the EMTs saw officers working on Richard Donohue Jr., a MBTA officer who was part of the police chase into Watertown.

The 33-year-old Donohue was hit by a round that severed three of four major leg arteries, producing a steady steam of blood draining into the street. 

As Caruso and Menton got out, the officers carried the limp unconscious officer to the back of the vehicle. They soon realized that Donohue had effectively lost his entire blood supply from the wound. 

“You can’t even describe it. It looked like he had bled out,” said Menton. “He looked like death.” 

“He was pulseless when we showed up,” said Caruso, noting they could not register a heart beat since there was no blood left to circulate.

Official department protocol and training calls for a patient to be secured onto a gurney, stabilized and administered a specific regiment of drugs and liquids before beginning transport.

But in a split second, Caruso and Menton determined that whatever the book said was not going to save Donahue’s life. He just needed to get the hell out of there, fast.

“It was all going back to our training and then adrenaline kicks in,” said Menton, who called their actions “a little bit against protocol but we needed to do what had to be done,” he with a little laugh.

Donohue would also be taken to the nearest hospital rather than a fully-staffed trauma facility; so they were heading to Cambridge’s Mt. Auburn Hospital. 

Caruso and Menton quickly bundled Donohue into the back of the ambulance as Menton’s brother, Timothy, a Watertown Police night shift officer, took the wheel with Donohue’s partner as a passenger.

Then came a mad dash, 1.8 miles to Mt. Auburn. Assisting Caruso and Menton in the back was Mass. State Trooper Chris Dumont who had military field medicial training, compressing Donahue’s chest as the Watertown EMTs attempted to restore a pulse by applying pressure to the wound and breathing for the officer using an air bag. 

It took less than two minutes for Watertown Rescue to arrive at the hospital’s emergency room where personnel rushed him immediately into surgery.

It was touch and go for the first 24 hours, but Donahue is expected to survive, thanks, doctors have said, to the rapid decisions and medical attention given to him during that 120 second run for life. 

Watertown Fire Chief Mario Orangio told Watertown Patch after observing a moment of silence Monday for all victims in the past week, he praised the actions of his men on that desperate morning.

“No bullet proof vests, no weapons to protect themselves, not knowing what’s going on,” Orangio said. 

“The decisions they made in a split second through all that choas in what was essentially a war zone … I can’t tell you how proud I was of their actions. They helped save [Donahue],” said Orangio.

On Monday morning, April 22, Caruso and Menton visited Donohue for the second time since the incident.

“He’s partially conscious but he’s definitely coming around,” said Caruso. 

When people in law enforcement, around the community or the nation start throwing around the term “heroic” for their actions on that warm Friday morning on Laural, the men have been deflecting that praise to those who deserve it.

“There were two heroes that night,” said Caruso. “One is in the hospital and the other is deceased.” 

“We were doing our jobs,” said Menton. Just like Monday when they left the Orchard Street station for two quick medical runs.

“Just another day on the job,” he said.

South End Patch