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Rookie officer buried with police honors after 15 years in a coma

December 18, 1997

WATERTOWN, Conn. (AP) _ Fifteen-year-old Kristen Hanley never had the chance to have heart-to-heart talks with her dad. She was just 2 months old when he collapsed in the line of duty and slipped into a coma.

On Wednesday, Kristen clutched her mother’s hand and fought back tears as Bruce Hanley’s fellow officers from the Waterbury Police Department _ which kept him on its rolls while he was in a coma _ draped an American flag over his casket.

Hanley, 45, was buried with full police honors.

He was a rookie officer when he collapsed while chasing a suspect the night of Nov. 19, 1982 _ unable to breathe after tissue in his lung ruptured. He never regained consciousness and died Saturday, leaving behind his wife, Susan, and Kristen.

At St. John the Evangelist Church, about 300 relatives, friends and state and local police officers gathered to mourn and honor Hanley.

Dozens of officers stood at attention outside the Catholic church for a color guard ceremony before a simple funeral service in which the Rev. Kevin Forsyth spoke of Hanley’s desire to help others, as evident from his decision to become a police officer.

``They don’t do it for the money. They do it to protect and serve. They do it because they are gold,″ Forsyth said.

He said Hanley’s death was a blessing, given his years in a coma.

Hanley was newly married with barely a year on the force when he and Officer Gene Caron responded to a report of a disturbance involving several youths on that autumn night.

When the officers reached the scene, one of the suspects took off running and Hanley chased him. They ran through a wooded area and several back yards before Hanley collapsed.

A resident arriving home found him on the ground and called for help. Officers managed to revive Hanley, but he had already suffered permanent brain damage from lack of oxygen.

Police Capt. Michael Bruce, then a patrol officer who helped resuscitate Hanley, described the former construction worker as an eager protege.

``I was his training officer when he was a rookie,″ Bruce said Monday. ``He was somebody who had wanted to be a cop for a very long time.″

On Sunday, Waterbury police officers wore black patches over their badges in Hanley’s honor and hung a black bunting over the station’s entrance.

Hanley was cared for at Cedar Lane Rehabilitation & Health Care Center.

``In many ways, time came to an end 15 years ago, but something kept him here,″ Forsyth told the mourners.

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