By Mark Morales
Rick Bruno has had his fair share of close calls.
Diagnosed with brain cancer at 17, deployed to Afghanistan to fight the war on terror -- Bruno has survived it all.
And on Sunday, the Nassau County police officer cheated death yet again, when he was dragged by a fleeing suspect from a traffic stop.
"When the car started to drive away, I knew I was probably going to be in for something that probably wasn't going to end well," Bruno, a lifelong Nassau County resident, said Tuesday.
Bruno, 33, and another officer pulled over Dwayne Henderson, 21, of Hempstead, early Sunday evening for speeding, police said. Stopped at a Gulf gas station on Greenwich Street in Hempstead, Henderson was ordered out of the car when officers realized he was driving with a suspended license.
Henderson refused and sped away, dragging Bruno, whose hand was caught in the passenger side door handle, police said.
Surveillance video obtained by News 12 showed Bruno hanging off the front passenger door as Henderson took off. Bruno was dragged about 60 feet before he fell to the pavement.
"I took a very lucky fall away from the car," he said. "I do remember seeing my left foot getting run over by the rear tire, and it hurt."
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The former Army veteran's survival instincts kicked in as he tried to keep his limbs together, but his left leg was caught.
"I reached down and made sure my kneecap is where it should be. It generally was," said Bruno, who cut off his pant leg with a seatbelt cutter. "I made sure my toes were pointing in the right direction with my leg. They were. . . . I was hurt, but I was OK. I was alive."
Henderson was taken into custody in Uniondale a short time later. He was charged with assault, among other offenses. His attorney could not be reached for comment. Bruno said the arrest gave him closure.
Bruno, during an interview Tuesday, winced as he got up from a chair and needed a cane to walk.
"Officer Bruno is a fine example of a police officer and a survivor," Commissioner Patrick Ryder said. "He has battled brain cancer and prevailed, he served his country with the armed forces in Afghanistan and is now protecting the residents and communities in Nassau County."
Bruno, who played football and wrestled in high school, was diagnosed with brain cancer at age 17. After a year-long combination of radiation and chemotherapy, he eventually joined the Army, serving for five years and retiring as a captain, he said.
Between cancer, the military and his job now as a police officer, Bruno said he knows he's lucky to be alive.
"The guardian angels are looking over me and I should probably stop testing them," he said.