Injured Naugatuck Police Officer Hopes to Serve Community Again after Hit-and-Run Crash

NBC Connecticut spoke exclusively with the injured officer about his recovery , the support he feels from the community, and what he wants you to know the next time you see an officer on the job.

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A Naugatuck police officer is speaking out for the first time after a getaway car slammed into him in November.

Lt. Mark Pettinicchi was overseeing a construction site on Route 63.

Investigators believe the driver hit the officer intentionally as he was evading police after a shoplifting call at the nearby Walmart.

“Next thing I know he’s flooring it and aiming right at me. And, the rest is history,” said Pettinicchi.

Pettinicchi says he tried to stop the driver, but the driver did not stop at the sight of him, crushing both his ankles and one of his legs.

“I tried to dart left and he veered right, so he just, there was just nowhere I could have gone to get out of his way fast enough.”

He says he used his radio to try to call for help, warning responders about his injuries.

“Prepare yourself for what you’re going to see when you come out to this construction site.”

Lt. Mark Pettinicchi was seriously injured when a suspect ran him down along Route 63 last November.

Pettinicchi says the crash happened just four minutes before his extra-duty shift was supposed to be complete, but he tells NBC Connecticut he wouldn’t have wanted anyone else to get hurt.

“We get paid to take risks and I had to take a risk that day.”

Five surgeries and a hospital and rehab stay later, Pettinicchi works with a therapist a couple of times a week to try to walk again.

NBC CT Reporter Caitlin Burchill asked him if he was angry with the people who did this to him. His response:

“I’m not. It’s a good question. I’m not angry because I like to think of it as, we got very lucky that day.”

He explains that someone else could have been hurt, his injuries could have been more serious. Plus, he says he and his fellow officers were able to help get a criminal off the street.

“He’s no longer with that drug that kills people, he’s not out there with an illegal weapon, so who knows how many lives have been saved that one time I was on a road job?”

Pettinicci says he was watching the local news from his hospital bed when he learned the suspect was brought into court in his handcuffs.

“Well, I couldn’t put them on myself. I would have liked to, but that’s just as good.”

The suspects involved continue to go through the court process.

As Pettinicchi recovers, he says he’s thankful for his wife and kids and for the hundreds of cards he’s received.

“I call that my healing fuel, you know, the people who have come and written letters, postcards. I’ve had the support from schools.”

Plus, he’s grateful for lots of other support too, like what one witness did moments after he was hit.

“Coming out and holding my hand, that was really special to me.”

Despite the darkness of what happened to him on the job just over two months ago, the lieutenant lights up when he talks about being a police officer.

“I absolutely love the job. I like being someone people can count on; people can rely on.”

Right now, he says he’s quite literally taking it one step at a time but hopes one day he'll step back into his police uniform and continue what he loves to do: to protect and serve.

“If there’s more fuel in the tank, I’m going to keep doing it.”

But in the meantime, the veteran with 20 years on the force wants his story to serve as a reminder about police officers.

“We’re all regular people. We’re all, we put on our uniforms like anyone puts on a suit and tie, except we have to put on a bulletproof vest because we never know if something like this is going to happen.”

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