More than 40 local law enforcement personnel and others were on hand Monday morning in Wilmington to give former Marine Brendan O'Toole a send-off filled with pomp and circumstance as he continued his cross-country run to raise awareness of veterans issues. (image credit: Suchat Pederson/Deleware News Journal)
By Dean O'Sullivan, Delaware News Journal
WILMINGTON, Del. -- The city of Wilmington and its police department took a negative "and turned it into something awesome," said former Marine Sgt. Brendan O'Toole on Monday.
On Wednesday, O'Toole was assaulted and suffered a concussion as he walked alone through the center of Wilmington, on his way to meet his crew and resume his coast-to-coast charity run to raise awareness about veteran's issues.
The unprovoked attack took O'Toole off the road for several days and appeared to give Wilmington and Delaware a black eye.
On Monday, O'Toole returned to be greeted by an honor guard and the Wilmington Police Department Pipes and Drums playing the "Marines' Hymn." More than 40 runners from Wilmington, Newark, New Castle County and Delaware State Police departments and prosecutors from both the Delaware Attorney General's Office and the Delaware U.S. Attorney's Office, joined O'Toole in resuming his run.
The group took a 3-mile, 30-minute run with him through the city center - including jogging past the 600 block of N. Market Street where O'Toole had been punched - and were greeted by cheering supporters all along the route, which started and ended at the William T. McLaughlin Public Safety Building at 300 N. Walnut Street.
Wilmington Police Cpl. Mark Ivey said law enforcement officers and others came together "to show that the actions of a single man do not define a city and do not deter a just cause."
Wilmington Police Chief Christine Dunning, who ran with O'Toole on Monday, told the crowd that nothing upsets police more than seeing bad things happen to good people and that is why so many officers turned out. "We all felt a genuine sense of outrage at the injustice," she said.
Officials also presented O'Toole with proclamations of support from the Delaware House of Representatives and Wilmington City Council.
The gestures clearly touched O'Toole, 26, of Alexandria, Va., who said he wasn't looking for any of this to happen. "My mission wasn't to seek justice (for the assault) or anything. My job is to try and get to the finish line and continue to raise money for veterans," he said.
So far, O'Toole said he has raised more than $300,000 for veterans support groups, like the USO and Team Red White & Blue.
He said he has been overwhelmed by the support following the attack.
"We're not holding grudges against anyone and we are really appreciative of all the support from the city of Wilmington and state of Delaware. We're just excited to be back here again," he said.
On Wednesday, O'Toole, dressed in his running clothes, was walking along Market Street when a man he had just greeted punched him in the face. The blow knocked him to the ground, cutting O'Toole's forehead above one eye and causing a concussion.
City police then reviewed surveillance camera footage and the next day arrested Garry Beauford, 21, of Chester, and charged him with second-degree assault.
O'Toole said Monday he is still not 100 percent healthy and Monday's event was a trial run to see if he - and his doctors - feel he is ready to restart his cross-country trek. O'Toole hopes to resume his 3,600-mile journey by Wednesday.
He hopes to be in Portland, Maine, by Nov. 11, Veteran's Day, a year to the day after he started his run in Southern California.
O'Toole said he is going to make it to Portland by Veteran's Day, "even if I have to crawl."