Watertown Police Sergeant Jeff Pugliese, the officer known for tackling the Boston marathon bomber to the ground, retired from the force after 41 years.
Pugliese discussed the important role of police work and how much he loved his job. His retirement is a mandatory one, as Massachusetts requires police officers to retire at the end of the month in which they reach 65 years of age.
“I look forward to going to work,” he told WBZ-TV. “It’s exciting and you get to help a lot of people…It’s incredible.”
He said policing is “the finest profession in the world to have.”
“He can’t work anymore as a police officer. It’s mandatory retirement. So it is what it is,” his wife, Connie, said. “It will be great to have him home more often. It’s important that he’s happy.”
Pugliese grew up in Watertown where his father was a Watertown Police detective. He said, “I knew I wanted to do this when I was about 16 years old. I decided I wanted to be a police officer.”
Pugliese enlisted in the United States Army at age 17, entering the service when he was 18 years old. He served as a military police officer and was stationed in Germany where he met his wife. They later moved to Massachusetts together.
Pugliese says that the day he got the call that he would be appointed as a police officer was the most exciting day of his career, per the local outlet. It would be almost 34 years later that he’d become a national hero when he assisted in taking down two terrorists.
The outlet reported that soon after the suspects of the Boston Marathon Bombing “sped into Watertown in a stolen SUV (and after killing MIT Police Officer Sean Collier), Pugliese found himself face-to-face with [one of the brothers].”
“We were just six feet, maybe seven feet apart. The only thing separating us was a four-foot chain link fence. We were exchanging gun fire and his gun, now we know it ran out of ammunition but, at the time we didn’t know if it jammed,” he said. “He stopped. He literally took the gun, looked at me, we made eye contact, and then he threw the gun at me and hit me in the shoulder with it. I holstered up and chased after him and tackled him.”
One of the brothers then raced toward Pugliese and two other law enforcement officers in an SUV. Pugliese pulled the other suspect to save him from getting hit by the car.
“I felt the breeze of that car go by my face. It missed my face by inches,” he said.
The brother in the car ran over his older brother, who was later pronounced dead at the hospital.
“It does have an affect on you,” Pugliese said. “You think how lucky you were to survive it. It’s just very difficult to put into words.”
He says policing has changed dramatically over the course of his career. More social work on the job, more domestic violence situations (physical and verbal) and a smaller Watertown PD staff.
But what has not changed is Pugliese’s sense of duty, his pride and his sense of connection to the community. He says he will miss driving around and talking with people and the camaraderie at Watertown PD.
“He received a Congressional Badge of Bravery for his heroic work during the Marathon bombing,” said Watertown police Chief Michael Lawn. “He also received the Trooper George Hanna Medal of Honor, which is the highest honor you can receive in Massachusetts in the police field.”
On February 11, 2015, then-Vice President Joe Biden hosted a Medal of Valor ceremony with then-Attorney General Eric Holder to honor several members of law enforcement, including Pugliese.
Pugliese told WCVB, “The best part of being a police officer is getting out there and helping people, saving lives,” adding, “It’s because of all these police officers – not just in Watertown, but everywhere in the world – people sleep soundly in their beds at night because there are police officers willing to sacrifice their lives for them.”
The retirement celebration included a video message from Oscar-winning actor J.K. Simmons, who portrayed Pugliese in the 2016 film “Patriots Day.”
“I’m the only guy in Hollywood good looking enough to portray you on screen,” Simmons said in the video. “Thank you for teaching me how to shoot a gun and teaching me all kinds of things about the ropes of police work.”
Pugliese was asked what advice he would give to younger law enforcement officers. Without hesitating, he answered, “Be proud of the profession. Don’t dishonor the uniform. You’re there to help people, not hurt people.”
“I love this profession. I really do,” he said.
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