Eight months, many surgeries after shooting, investigator to rejoin police force Monday
Norwich - It's been eight months since Norwich Police Officer Jonathan Ley stepped into his police uniform for actual police work.
Ley's planned return to the job on Monday comes after months of recovery - both physical and mental - from wounds he suffered during a Jan. 7 confrontation with a well-armed, suicidal man at Cedar Glen Apartments.
Ley, 39, was shot four times while on a stairway at the apartment complex and was pulled to safety by fellow officers. Jason Razzino, the shooter, later took his own life.
Numerous surgeries, counseling sessions and visits to physical therapists are now coupled with workouts that include martial arts, swimming, running and shooting.
"I'm getting anxious," Ley said from his home in Voluntown on Wednesday.
Ley said the extended time at home, not to mention a drop in salary, have helped provide an incentive for his return.
While sustaining bullet wounds to the leg, shoulder and neck, it was the wound to his left hand that made him question whether he would ever make it back to a career with the Norwich Police Department, where he'd worked for 15 years.
"I had a lot of different injuries and in the first few months, I didn't see any drastic improvement in my hand. Everything was up in the air," Ley said.
Norwich Police Sgt. James Veiga, Ley's immediate supervisor, said it was a tense and scary time for fellow officers who waited to hear word on Ley's life-threatening injuries.
"At that time I knew if anybody could make it back, it'd be John," Veiga said. "We were all amazed he was out of the hospital in four days."
It took about five months and multiple surgeries before Ley started regaining full use of his hand, something vital to his job. Although he typically shoots with his right hand, Ley said, he had to prove use of both hands to pass muster with his supervisors. Officers must be able to shoot with both hands and do things like change a magazine or deal with a gun malfunction, not to mention normal police duties.
Another surgery is planned to clear built-up scar tissue in his hand, but he has been training and has proved to his supervisors that he is physically ready. He has passed a psychological and a mental capacity test and has been cleared to return to work by doctors.
"I'm going to have lasting injuries, but nothing that is going to keep me from working," Ley said. "I had mental battles as well as physical ones to overcome. The mental side I'll be dealing with for a long time."
Ley said support from fellow officers and the community as a whole - including fundraisers - helped boost his spirit and ease some of the financial burden.
After six months off the job, Ley's pay was cut by more than 30 percent until his return. He used that as motivation. Additionally, Ley, father to a young son, will have to buy back lost time for his pension, at a cost of $6,000 to $7,000.
"It's a big loss of money. Being able to work and support my family - that's a big incentive," Ley said.
He expects he will return to his old post as an investigator performing background checks for new recruits at the department. He plans to apply for a promotion to the rank of sergeant the next time it is offered.
"We're looking forward to his return," Norwich Police Chief Louis J. Fusaro said. "I know he's worked very hard to get himself prepared to return to duty. He did all the right things to speed the process."
Fusaro said Ley would be returning to full duty. Norwich police do not have a "light duty" work category.
City Manager Alan Bergren, at a meeting on Tuesday, said, "We're quite elated he has made a terrific recovery. We're very pleased to hear the news after what he has gone through and survived."
Ley said he understands "the world doesn't stop moving" just because of his injury and expects little fanfare upon his return.
"I don't expect anything but to return to work and do my job," Ley said.
Staff Writer Claire Bessette contributed to this report.