John Barnett, the MTA officer from Central Islip who was stabbed in the eye by a knife-wielding assailant Wednesday, left the hospital Thursday evening giving a thumbs up, and set on running again and getting back to work.
About 30 Metropolitan Transportation Authority and NYPD officers in two columns lined the sidewalk of Jamaica Hospital Center in Queens as medical staff, followed by members of Barnett's family, pushed him between the rows in a wheelchair.
Asked how he was feeling, Barnett said, "Very good, thank you very much. I want to get back to running and I want to get back to the job."
Barnett, 45, was examined by an eye specialist at the hospital Thursday. Whether he'll regain use of his left eye remains uncertain, relatives and MTA officials said.
"His medical situation is still open," Barnett's sister, Belinda Barnett-Andrea of Queens, said Thursday. "We won't know much until the swelling goes down -- if he can see light, color."
MTA spokeswoman Marjorie Anders said in a statement that Barnett's condition is "improving," but there was "no prognosis yet on his vision."
Barnett, a 14-year MTA police veteran, was on patrol at the Long Island Rail Road's Jamaica Station, near a taxi stand on Sutphin Boulevard, Wednesday morning when he was attacked by a man identified as Edgar Owens, 46, of the Bronx, MTA officials said.
Owens stabbed Barnett just below his left eyelid, officials said. After being wounded, Barnett drew his gun on Owens and told him to put down the knife. When Owens refused, Barnett shot Owens three times, killing him.
MTA officials said Barnett underwent 41/2 hours of surgery Wednesday.
"He said he'd love to go back to work," said state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Jamaica), who visited Barnett for about a half-hour Thursday afternoon. "He clearly knows that his eye has been severely wounded and severely damaged. He's under no misconception."
Smith said he asked Barnett, a commander in the Navy Reserve, how he was able to fire his gun after being so seriously injured. "He said it was from his military training and training at the MTA," Smith said. "I think he's a hero. There's no question about it."
MTA board member Mitchell Pally said Thursday that Barnett's "tremendous sacrifice" could have spared the life of an LIRR rider or passerby. Owens had been classified as emotionally disturbed during past arrests, police said. "I think there are always lessons to be learned in any encounter such as this, even if it's random, as this one seems to have been," Pally said.
The MTA Police Benevolent Association did not return a call seeking comment.
MTA police Capt. John Fitzpatrick, who has worked with Barnett for 15 years, said as Barnett was leaving the hospital that he was "in shock" at how well his co-worker was doing a day after the attack, but that Barnett was "the kind of guy who would get up after a heart attack. He's ready to get back on the job."
With Scott Eidler