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Stabbed MTA officer's vision improves

John Barnett, the MTA officer from Central Islip

John Barnett, the MTA officer from Central Islip who was stabbed in the eye by a knife-wielding assailant July 4, leaves the hospital. (July 5, 2012) Credit: Charles Eckert

MTA Police Officer John Barnett said he can see light out of his left eye, six weeks after being stabbed in that eye while patrolling the Long Island Rail Road Jamaica station.

It's taken three surgeries to get there. He faces more surgeries in the coming months and said he hopes those will continue to improve vision in that eye.

"I'm doing OK," Barnett, 45, said in a telephone interview from his Central Islip home. "You just have to take it day by day. I feel lucky to be alive."

The 13-year veteran of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority police and commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve who served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, was coming out of the station building on July 4, when a knife-wielding assailant stabbed him, fracturing the eye socket.

After being stabbed, Barnett fired his gun four times, killing the man identified as Edgar Owens, 46, of the Bronx. MTA officials said Owens had a history of assaulting and threatening police officers.

"I'm not angry," Barnett said. "It was a random act of violence."

He has spent the past six weeks at home, studying for a master's degree in criminal justice, taking online classes from Ashworth College, Barnett said, adding that he's eager to "just go back to work and do what I was doing before I got injured."

It's too early to tell when that will happen, MTA spokesman Sam Zambuto said. "We are glad that Officer Barnett is doing well, and we're focused on his recovery," he said.

The prognosis for injuries such as the one Barnett sustained, where the eyeball is perforated, is often uncertain, said Dr. Cono Grasso, chairman of the Division of Ophthalmology at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, where Barnett underwent initial surgery. Working in Barnett's favor is the fact that doctors were able to keep his eye closed to prevent further damage, Grasso said.

Doctors initially thought Barnett would lose the eye, MTA officials said after he underwent more than four hours of surgery immediately following the stabbing.

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