Nassau police Officer Nicholas Brando suffered two broken legs, blood clots and loss of nerve function after getting pinned between a fleeing suspect’s car and a parked police cruiser. Suffolk police Officer Mark Collins took a bullet to the neck and another to a hip from a suspect as the two struggled on the ground.
Though working in separate counties, the two lawmen shared a desire to battle through debilitating injuries sustained trying to catch criminals.
The Theodore Roosevelt Association honored both officers Thursday for showing what organizers said was the same type of grit and determination displayed by the legendary former president, who despite a severe lifelong asthma affliction fought as a “roughrider” in the Spanish-American War and served as New York City police commissioner.
Brando and Collins earned the association’s 2016 Police Valor Award, which goes to an officer who, despite suffering an injury that could allow for retirement, displays a Rooseveltian determination and “comes back and serves the people of his or her jurisdiction,” said Tweed Roosevelt, during a ceremony at Sagamore Hill, the Oyster Bay estate of his great great grandfather and 26th president of the United States.
Brando, injured on Jan. 9, 2014, came back that July to his position with the Nassau Police Department’s Bureau of Special Operations. Collins, who suffered temporary paralysis after a Huntington Station man shot him on March 11, 2015, eventually recovered and rejoined his unit with Suffolk police emergency services that October.
The association has awarded Nassau and Suffolk police officers since 1995.
Brando and Collins both expressed gratitude for not only the award, but being able to stay on as police officers despite major physical setbacks.
“I wasn’t going to let any injury hold me back,” said Collins, “or let anything get in the way or stopping me from doing what I love.”
After Huntington Station resident Sheldon Leftenant shot Collins, the 13-year Suffolk police veteran managed to reach cover, radio for help and coach responding officers through first aid, Suffolk Police Chief Stuart Cameron said.
Although the shooting temporarily left him paralyzed, Collins left Stony Brook University Hospital four days later and went on to give testimony at Leftenant’s trial.
A jury convicted Leftenant in January of attempted aggravated murder, second-degree criminal possession of a weapon and resisting arrest in connection with the shooting. In March, a judge sentenced him to 55 years to life in prison.
“Mark Collins worked diligently on his recovery and physical therapy with an eye toward returning to work as rapidly as possible,” Cameron said.
Brando, too, spent most of the time after his injury trying to get back to doing police work, something he somehow was able to do even with crushed legs the night of his injury. With adrenaline pumping, Brando got himself into his car and used it to box in the suspect, who had driven up onto a sidewalk and toward Brando’s partner, he said.
He spent six days in the hospital and a subsequent five and a half months doing physical therapy, but after just two weeks of restricted assignment, returned to work.
“I love being a police officer,” he said. “I never thought about leaving. It was just a matter of when I could get back.”