It was a crime that shocked the community. An Ithaca police officer shot through the chest while chasing a suspected car thief. Now, two months later, Anthony Augustine is working hard to recover. YNN's Tamara Lindstrom sat down exclusively with the officer who talks about the struggle and what it's like when an officer becomes a victim.
ITHACA, N.Y. -- It was what he always wanted to do. On the night of October 11th, Anthony Augustine was just doing his job, chasing after a suspect, when everything changed.
"I just saw a flash," Augustine said.
The five year veteran of the Ithaca Police Department was shot through his chest. After spotting a stolen car, Augustine says he ran after the driver, who took off on foot.
"You always wonder what it's like to be shot. At least I did. Did I ever think it would happen in Ithaca? No. Did I ever think I would be that person? No," Augustine said. "You can't really prepare yourself for it, but you know it's a possibility."
Augustine was quickly airlifted to the hospital and treated, but suffered a stroke after surgery. Now he spends his days in physical therapy working to regain function and strength in his left arm and his eyes.
"My vision is extremely frustrating because I lost my left peripheral vision in both eyes, and there's a function of my eyes that isn't working yet. But I'm hopeful that it will come back and I can get back to my normal life," he said.
While he works toward that goal, Augustine has seen overwhelming support from citizens and law enforcement across the country.
"It was great. It's good to know that no matter what agency you're at, there's a lot of support," Augustine said. "If people don't like each other, they still come together. It's a really good feeling."
But the days away from police work give Augustine plenty of time to think. Sometimes, about the suspect who, he says, shouldn't have been out on the street.
Jamel Booker has been charged with attempted murder in the shooting, but this wasn't the first time he's been accused in a shooting.
"It's disturbing," Augustine said. "Disturbing that the judicial system didn't work the way you think or hope that it would work."
Augustine recently came face to face with the defendant in court, who he says looked anything but remorseful.
"I think it's just a total disregard for life. And that's sad and a shame that somebody's like that. You would think someone would think a little more before shooting a police officer. But like I said, you never know."
Booker pleaded not guilty to all charges.
While Augustine prepares for the legal battle ahead, he knows it was thanks to his fellow first responders that he lived to face the alleged shooter.
"I don't know how all the counties and all the people responded as fast as they did," Augustine said. "I still kind of wonder how they got there. It was fast. It's amazing to see that kind of support."
It's too soon to tell when, or if, Augustine will return to duty. He says he just has to wait and hope for the best. Still, he says he doesn't regret anything he did that night, or his decision to become a police officer.
Watch the entire raw interview with Officer Anthony Augustine. (Approx. 11 minutes)
CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Ithaca police officer works to recover from shooting
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