Officer Kenneth Healey received the NYPD’s highest award Tuesday, less than two years after he was struck in the back of the head by a hatchet-wielding man in what was deemed to be terrorism.
Healey was awarded the Medal of Honor during the department’s Medal Day Ceremony, along with awards for three other officers who were there when they were ambushed by a radicalized attacker who ranted online against America.
Police Officers Brian Moore and Randolph Holder, who were both killed while on duty last year, were also awarded Medals of Honor posthumously.
“It’s scary that this stuff is still going on today. What happened in Orlando — my heart goes out to the families — it’s scary,” said Officer Joseph Meeker, who was also struck by the same suspect who attacked Healey. “But it’s the job that we signed up for.”
Healey, Meeker, and two other officers were patrolling in Jamaica on October 23, 2014, when they were ambushed by Zale Thompson, 32.
Thompson ran wildly at the group with an 18.5-inch metal hatchet near the corner of 162nd Street and Jamaica Avenue after a freelance photographer asked the officers to pose for a photo, police have said.
He first struck Meeker in the forearm before raising the hatchet again and striking Healey.
Officers Taylor Kraft and Peter Rivera then fatally shot Thompson, who still had the hatchet clutched in his hand when he died, police said.
“It happened so fast,” Meeker said. “One second you’re standing there... and mayhem just happened. Split seconds.”
They then loaded Healey — who had a fractured skull, a severe laceration to his brain, dislocated bone fragments to his skull, and lost a lot of blood — into the back of their police car and drove him to the hospital, deciding he couldn’t wait for an ambulance to get there, police said.
“He was conscious, talking the whole time to us in the back of the car,” Meeker said. “We had to do what we had to do.”
Healey was in critical condition, but survived, and has since completed his physical therapy. He is currently an active member of the department’s Technical Assistance and Response Unit.
On Tuesday, Meeker was awarded the Medal for Valor, and Kraft and Rivera were awarded the Police Combat Cross.
“It’s an honor to get the medal,” Rivera said. “I would trade it in a heartbeat to have Healey back 100%.”