Three days after taking a bullet during a Valentine's Day subway station shootout, NYPD Det. Kevin Herlihy is still in pain -- more from the emotional toll than the wound in his arm.
"I took a person's life," Herlihy said Friday, dry-eyed but shaken.
He'd never had to fire his weapon in 18 years on the force, he said. The fact that he killed a suspect the first time he had to pull the trigger has been tough to deal with.
"It's been overwhelming," he said. "It's something I wouldn't wish on anybody."
In his most extensive interview since the shooting, Herlihy, 47, shared a living room couch in his Lynbrook home with his wife, Adrienne. There was no hiding their relief after his brush with death.
"Thank God I'm alive, and I'm here to talk about this," he said.
He'd just been out running errands and was wearing a blue NYPD baseball cap. But asked when -- or even if -- he would return to active duty, Herlihy couldn't say.
"I'm at a crossroads," he said softly.
On Tuesday, police said Herlihy and other Queens detectives were following suspect Michael McBride, a day after McBride allegedly shot and critically wounded his girlfriend's daughter in Rockaway Park, Queens.
After ducking into a subway station near his Harlem home with the detectives in pursuit, McBride, 52, fired four to six times at Herlihy in the mezzanine, striking him in the left biceps with a .22-caliber bullet, police said. Herlihy returned fire with 13 rounds.
"There was no thought process, just a reaction," he said. "I was being fired upon. You just rely on your training.
"People ask why you can't shoot them in the ankle. That's not possible when you are being fired at. It was all a matter of seconds."
He wishes McBride hadn't opened fire, forcing him to do the same. "It wasn't my decision to draw a gun," he said. "It was his decision to draw a gun."
As two large, playful dogs bounded through the living room, the officer said there is still physical pain. It gets worse at night.
He wore no sling Friday, but his injured arm was bandaged under his long-sleeved NYPD T-shirt.
Emotionally, he admits he's more fragile. He said he thinks often of two fellow NYPD officers from Long Island who were recently shot in the line of duty.
Kevin Brennan, 28, of Garden City Park, was shot in the head at close range on Jan. 31 during a late-night struggle with a gunman in Brooklyn. Officials and doctors called his survival a miracle; he was released from the hospital last week and is expected to recover.
Peter Figoski, 47, of West Babylon, was fatally shot in the face Dec. 12 while responding to a robbery in Brooklyn.
Adrienne Herlihy said she, too, has been struggling with her emotions since her husband was shot.
"You can't help but let your mind go to what could have happened," she said.
When Herlihy left a Manhattan hospital and returned home Wednesday, they tearfully embraced. Asked to describe her feelings at that moment, she gently refused.
"I think that's something only Kevin and I can understand," she said.