Thursday's NYPD graduation at Madison Square Garden, presided over by Commissioner William Bratton, had special meaning for the Healey family of Nassau County.
Among the 822 police graduates was John P. Healey, following in the footsteps of a brother who had not been on the street very long before he made headlines of his own.
Last October, Healey's then 25-year-old brother Kenneth was suddenly attacked while on foot patrol in Jamaica, Queens, by a hatchet-wielding man who bashed him in the skull. Healey had just posed with three fellow officers for a picture when police said he was struck by Zale Thompson, 32, on the sidewalk.StorySources: Cop in hatchet attack on LI after rehabStoryBystander shot in hatchet attack plans to sueStoryCop in hatchet attack headed to LI rehab
Thompson, who Bratton would later say was a self-radicalized convert to Islam, was shot dead by Healey's fellow officers. Healey was taken to Jamaica Medical Center, where he was treated for a serious head wound.
Kenneth Healey, now 26, dressed in his police uniform and still undergoing rehabilitation, was in the crowd at the Garden to watch his brother take the oath of office with hundreds of fellow officers. He, his brother and their father James, a Nassau County police detective, all of Oceanside, talked with reporters after graduation.
"I am proud of him, after everything that has happened to me. . . . I hope he stays safe," Kenneth Healey said.
John Healey, 22, said graduation was an exciting way to cap six months of arduous training and study at the new police academy in College Point. His class was the first to go through the academy at the new, spacious location.
"I will be going to the 101 [Precinct] in Far Rockaway. I am excited about that. It is a good command," John Healey said.
Kenneth Healey said there wasn't any way he could talk his brother out of becoming a cop, even after the hatchet attack.
"It is just in our blood," he said. "He wants to do it. There is no talking him out of it."
James Healey, also in his Nassau police dress blues, said despite the trepidation he had after the attack, he wasn't going to try to discourage his younger son from joining the police force.
"It is his choice, he really wanted to do it and I would never discourage him from doing that," he said. "We have a long line of police officers in our family."
Kenneth Healey had some simple advice for his brother, and all of the newly minted police officers: "Just keep your head up, always have your head on a swivel . . . just be safe."