With only six months to go before he’s eligible for a full pension, Cpl. Omar Delgado, one of the first police to respond to the massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, is losing his job.
Hailed as a hero in the wake of the June 2016 mass shooting for saving the life of shooting victim Angel Colon, Delgado has since suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. As the Orlando Sentinel reports, after the massacre that left 49 people dead, Delgado returned to patrol duty with the Eatonville, Fla., Police Department for a few months but had to stop.
He told CNN that he has had trouble sleeping and suffered from nightmares, depression and anxiety. Delgado eventually took a desk job with the department, performing administrative duties for the past eight months.
Then, this past Monday, the Eatonville PD told Delgado that his last day would be at the end of the month. Delgado is not sure exactly why he’s being let go, and city officials wouldn’t comment on the case, citing privacy policies. The officer says that a doctor had found him unfit to resume full duties because of his PTSD, which he believes was a factor in the city’s decision to fire him.
But Delgado—a nine-and-a-half-year veteran of the department—is being forced out just six months before he can receive his full retirement pension and disability benefits. If he made the 10-year mark, the 45-year-old officer could receive 64 percent of his salary and benefits for life.
The timing of Delgado’s firing, however, means that Delgado is entitled to disability or a retirement pension, but not both, according to WESH-TV. As it stands, Delgado will only receive 42 percent of his salary (his disability pension), which will kick in when he turns 55.
Delgado said that the departmental policy was news to him.
“I don’t need to be a police officer with my gun belt and so forth to do those little tasks,” Delgado said about his administrative work. “Could they have let me do that for six more months? That’s the debate.”
As Time magazine notes, Delgado isn’t the first officer who responded to the Pulse-nightclub shooting to be fired following a PTSD diagnosis. The Orlando Police Department let go Officer Gerry Realin, 37, in July. However, Realin will receive 80 percent of his $70,000 salary each year for the rest of life. Compare that with Delgado, who stands to receive 42 percent of his $38,5000 salary annually.
But Eatonville, the home of Zora Neale Hurston and the oldest incorporated African-American town in the country, is reportedly strapped for cash. The Eatonville Town Council, following a harsh backlash to news of Delgado’s firing (WESH-TV reports that city officials have received death threats), voted unanimously to give Delgado an additional $1,200. The city also said that it would continue to help the officer with PTSD counseling.
A blog posted on Psychology Today says that out of roughly 900,000 sworn officers in the U.S., approximately 19 percent may have PTSD. Some research also suggests that another 34 percent of law enforcement officers may suffer from symptoms of PTSD but “do not meet the standards for the full diagnosis.” (Note: This blog also tells us to take time to “smile at a cop,” since their jobs are so stressful, which is cute but also horseshit. Cops suffering from PTSD need real institutional support, and it’s unclear whether Delgado really received it.)
Currently, PTSD is not covered by workers’ compensation in Florida. As the Orlando Sentinel notes, a proposed bill requiring first responders with PTSD to receive coverage for mental health treatment in their workers’ compensation packages advanced this week in the Florida Senate.
Angel Colon, the man whose life Delgado saved last year, told Fox 35 that the Eatonville Police Department should support the veteran officer.
“It’s a horrible feeling because this man, Omar, has been there for me ever since June 12,” Colon said, according to the Sentinel. “He’s the person who saved my life.”