By Chris Teale (File photo)
The last thing Peter Laboy remembers about February 27, 2013 is taking a shortcut into Old Town from the Woodrow Wilson Bridge on his Alexandria Police Department motorcycle in response to a call for assistance from another police officer.
From that point on, it all goes blank.
He next remembers waking up in MedStar Washington Hospital surrounded by family members, then-Police Chief Earl Cook, then-Mayor Bill Euille and other well-wishers.
It took other people to fill in the details of what happened. At a routine traffic stop near Lyles-Crouch Traditional Academy, Alexandria Yellow Cab driver Kashif Bashir, then 27, of Woodbridge, shot Laboy in the head. The officer collapsed within sight of children playing at the school.
Bashir then led police on a chase that stretched across jurisdictions. He was arrested after crashing his cab in Fairfax County and later charged with malicious wounding of a law enforcement officer and using a firearm in commission of a felony.
Bashir was found not guilty by reason of insanity in Alexandria Circuit Court in October 2014 and was committed to a mental health institution for further evaluation.
While police pursued Bashir across the county line, Laboy was left on the ground outside Lyles-Crouch fighting for his life.
“There was a park police helicopter that was flying close, they heard a call and came and started flying over where I was,” Laboy said. “There were firefighters that were going to where their station was, and 30 seconds after this happened to me they went by and stopped to help. About 15 seconds after this happened to me, the police officer that I had gone to help, he came by and he saw me on the floor and he went on the radio and said he had an officer down.”
Laboy said he later learned that the pilot of the helicopter had been instructed not to land on the playing field at Lyles-Crouch due to a lack of space. The pilot’s decision to ignore the dispatcher’s advice saved crucial time in getting Laboy to the hospital.
“The dispatcher told him several things and he refused to do it, because his thing was that there was a police officer down and so he was not going anywhere,” Laboy said. “They asked where they were going to land. In the front they have a small baseball field and a small parking lot. He looked down and said, ‘I’m going to land right there.’
“Everybody told him he could not land right there, be- cause he did not have space, and one of the things he said was, ‘There’s not going to be anybody that is going to tell me where I can land or not.’”
Laboy came face-to-face with Bashir in court when he went on trial, and the 48-year-old said he could not believe this was his assailant.
“When he came to the courtroom, I saw him, and this guy was not even 5 feet tall,” he said. “At the time, I said, ‘Is that the guy that shot me?’”
After what doctors described at the time as a “miraculous” recovery from brain damage, Laboy retired from the Alexandria Police Department in 2015 on medical grounds. He said he still has seizures several times a year, and doctors have forbidden him from driving a car.
Laboy said he also has problems with speech at times, and must take medication each morning and night. If he does not, he can suffer from mood swings, he said.
Currently, Laboy is a stay-at-home dad, and said he has taken up photography. And while his recovery continues, he and his family received welcome news last week with a $20,000 cash donation by in-vehicle emergency communication company OnStar.
The technology automatically connects drivers to a live dispatcher when the car’s airbags deploy, who then works with first responders and emergency personnel to provide assistance.
Laboy was one of 20 people nationwide to receive the donation, which marks OnStar’s 20th anniversary. The company took nominations from the International Association of Chiefs of Police Foundation, the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials’ Sunshine Fund, the International Association of Fire Chiefs and the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. OnStar and General Motors executives then chose the 20 recipients.
“After reviewing his story and realizing he was basically acting in a routine manner investigating a suspicious activity and then to be ambushed and shot and suffer such serious injuries but the miracle of his fighting back and his survival, he was rally a great inspiration to us,” said Cathy Bishop, OnStar’s global emergency services senior manager.
“He’s been an inspiration to the law enforcement profession and we just felt that his story was very compelling.”
Laboy said the money will go into he and his wife Suzanne’s savings account. Meanwhile, he said the outpouring of support from the community has helped keep him going.
“People around the neighborhood, I’m walking around and I go past somebody, and they look at me and say, ‘Hi Peter,’ and I’m like, ‘I’ve never seen you before, but hello,’” he said. “It’s a good thing.”