Benefit to aid wounded NOPD officer draws hundreds of supporters

Benefit to aid wounded NOPD officer draws hundreds of supporters

An NOPD officer who was paralyzed after being shot in the line of duty showed support for his former partner who was also shot and paralyzed during a separate incident.

A fundraiser for Officer Jonathan Smith was held Wednesday at Generations Hall. Hundreds of people turned out, but no one knows what Smith is going through like Officer John Passaro. They share a bond like no other.

"He was there for me, I'll be there for him," Passaro said.

Two friends. Two former partners. Both shot in the line of duty.

"As soon as it happened to him, I was there," Passaro said. "As soon as he came out of surgery, I was already there."

Smith was shot while working an off-duty detail at a poboy shop in September. Now confined to a wheelchair and with medical bills piling up, organizers put together the Saints-themed benefit to help him out.

"We all need to rally around him," said Donna Copelin. "He needs us now. He's given so much. I'm so proud of him - he's a hero."

Some attendees were friends of Smith while others were complete strangers who felt an urge to help.

Sherrill Santos is volunteering her time to serve food.

"The fundraiser is a wonderful opportunity for everyone to show appreciation for the officer," she said.

Smith, a five-year veteran of the force, said he was overwhelmed by the generosity.

"Blessed to be alive," Smith said. "Not lucky, blessed."

Passaro said Smith will make it through this difficult time because he's got lots of people to lean on.

Smith said he wants to return to the force one day. In the meantime, the two men arrested after the shooting are both charged with attempted first-degree murder of a police officer.

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