Retired Capt. Douglas Greenwood fatally shot himself in the chest on Tuesday at the entrance to Greenlawn Park, after the pain of his lung disease became too much to bear.
“He talked about shooting himself as an inevitable thing,” longtime friend, NYC photographer Kevin McCormick told The New York Post.
“He said, ‘When there’s no more quality of life, I’m going to do it,’ ” McCormick said. “He knew it was coming.”
As captain of the Manhattan South Task Force, Greenwood spent 40 consecutive days after 9/11 working the infamous "Pile" at Ground Zero, where he directed first responders, second responders and others.
“He was in charge of all the NYPD boots on the ground,” recalled Ralph Friedman, an author, TV personality and retired detective who was Greenwood’s pal for 25 years.
“He’d be commanding the scene, but he also did grunt work — everybody pitched in. Everyone was sifting through the scene for bodies, body parts,” Friedman said.
“He could have stayed in a car. But he was right there. And it cost him his health — as it did for a lot of officers,” he added. “They did very heroic work — there’s no way around it. And he was right there.”
Greenwood contracted lung disease from his time working the "Pile," as his job required him to frequently speak into a radio, meaning he hardly ever was able to wear a mask.
“Because he was in a position of being in charge, he couldn’t keep his mask on, really, because he was always on the radio,” McCormick said.
At 61 years old, Greenwood had been through multiple surgeries and slept with an oxygen tank for the last 10 years of his life. He never married or had children, but once retired from the NYPD, he opened Bleecker Street Pizza, which he was immensely proud of.
His friends said he would sit in the Greenwich Village pizza parlor as if he were a customer to hear how customers reacted to the pie.
“Sometimes he’d ask them, ‘How do you like the pizza?’ and they’d rave about it,” McCormick remembered. “And then he’d say, ‘Well, I’m actually the owner!’”
“He had a whole second life,” said his older brother, Gregory, adding that Greenwood never would have left the department were it not for his lung disease.
“All I can tell you is that he’s very well known in the police world and the pizza world,” Gregory added.
Friedman said Greenwood felt as if, because of the constant pain, he had no choice but to take his own life.
"It was constant, increasing pain. It hurt to breathe," Friedman said. "He would never do something like this unless he had no choice. And he had no choice."