Buffalo Police Officer Carl E. Andolina missed the chance to be Jay Leno's guest of honor.
Leno invited Andolina -- accorded hero status in December after being shot while tackling a gunman who wounded his partner -- to his stand-up comedy show Thursday at Fallsview Niagara Casino. But Andolina is in an Erie County Medical Center bed, recovering from leg injuries he suffered in a motorcycle crash early Wednesday.
Police Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson said Andolina, 42, who was moved Thursday out of ECMC's intensive-care unit, might be able to get out of bed as early as today.
Leno offered tickets to his show to Andolina, Gipson, retired Northeast District Lt. John P. King, the Rev. Joseph F. Moreno and city Housing Inspector Ronald Deschenes to thank them for helping with fundraising efforts for Officer Patricia A. Parete, Andolina's partner on the day of the Dec. 5 shootings.
Parete received paralyzing gunshot wounds in the run-in with the teenage gunman before Andolina tackled him. In May, Andolina was named winner of the top honor among Fox TV's "America's Most Wanted" All-Star First Responders.
Leno signed and donated a Harley-Davidson motorcycle to a fundraiser for Parete, and the Buffalo guests of honor had planned to thank him Thursday night by making him an honorary member of the Buffalo Police Department.
Gipson said Andolina had planned to attend the event as a symbol of the fundraising efforts for his wounded partner. "He was kind of the face behind the efforts for a lot of people," Gipson said.
Andolina and Patricia Gorski, identified as his girlfriend, were thrown from their motorcycle early Wednesday after the driver of a sport utility vehicle, Allen T. Reid, 17, of Williamsville, turned into their path.
The handlebars pierced Andolina's right thigh, damaging his femoral artery and the muscles in his leg and causing him to lose about half his blood volume, Gipson said. Gorski suffered a head injury but was released Wednesday after treatment from ECMC.
Moreno, of St. Lawrence Catholic Church, has served as Buffalo Police Department chaplain, and he blessed Andolina during a visit Wednesday night, comparing his succession of challenges to the biblical Job. "Theologically, he's got to have God's private phone number for him to survive as many things as he has survived," Moreno said. "He's got to be ringing God up one-on-one."
Moreno said he whispered in the sleeping police officer's ear, "After you get out of here, you've got to buy a lottery ticket."
Andolina was riding his motorcycle a few blocks from his Amherst home, where he has been recovering from the December shooting, officially on "injured on-duty" leave.
In December, Andolina's friends said he was down on himself for not being able to prevent Parete from being seriously wounded.
"It takes a lot to undergo those things and to actually look at facing death," Gipson said. "I mean, he was one inch away from being a victim."