Fla. cop who saved victim in Pulse nightclub shooting to lose job

The Eatonville PD wouldn’t confirm the reason why Cpl. Omar Delgado, who suffers from PTSD, will be let go

By Ryan Gillespie and David Harris
Orlando Sentinel

EATONVILLE, Fla. — One of the first police officers who responded to the Pulse nightclub shooting in June 2016 and now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder is being dismissed from Eatonville’s Police Department.

The Town Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to pay Cpl. Omar Delgado about $1,200 before taxes in accrued sick time. The agenda item confirmed that his last day of employment is Dec. 31.

Delgado was lauded as a hero at Pulse for saving Angel Colon, who had been shot several times as gunfire erupted inside the nightclub June 12, 2016.

Delgado said he returned to patrol duty for a few months after the massacre that left 49 dead and at least 68 injured, but he had to stop. He still doesn’t like going to restaurants and bars.

“Too many people,” he said. “God forbid, something happens — I don’t know if I’d be able to react.”

For the past eight months, Delgado has worked a desk job, answering phones and doing light tasks. He said this week all of that changed when he was told Monday that his last day on the job would be at the end of the month.

“I don’t need to be a police officer with my gun belt and so forth to do those little tasks,” Delgado said before Tuesday’s meeting. “Could they have let me do that for six more months? That’s the debate.”

He said a doctor found him unfit to return to full duty because of post-traumatic stress disorder, and Delgado suspects that was a factor in his dismissal.

An additional six months of employment — he has worked for the department for 9 1/2 years — would have allowed him to become vested in the pension system and collect 64 percent of his salary with benefits for life. Delgado makes $38,500 annually, Town Clerk Cathy Williams said.

As it stands now, he will only receive 42 percent of his salary starting when he’s 55 years old. He’s 45 now.

The Police Department wouldn’t confirm the reason for Delgado being let go. Deputy Chief Joseph Jenkins would only say the department reached an agreement with the veteran officer to end his employment.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Mayor Eddie Cole questioned why funds from the onePULSE Foundation weren’t diverted to law enforcement officers and their families but declined to provide additional information about Delgado’s dismissal, citing privacy laws.

“This town, as well as me, cares about people,” he said. “But some pictures are bigger than we all know.”

Chief Administrative Officer Roger Dixon also wouldn’t give specifics but said: “The facts as we know them have caused me as an administrator to be concerned for the health and safety of the citizens and those passing through the town. Most of that is confidential, so I won’t be able to say anything about that.”

Colon attended the meeting in support of his friend, Delgado, but nobody spoke during the meeting.

Meanwhile, a bill requiring coverage for mental health treatment in workers compensation insurance for first responders with PTSD advanced Tuesday in the Florida state Senate.

The bill — sponsored by GOP state Sen. Lauren Book of Plantation — calls for funding for PTSD treatment if it resulted from witnessing a murder, suicide, fatal injury, child death or arriving at a mass-casualty situation.

Under the bill, treatment would begin within 15 days if the injury was certified by a licensed psychiatrist.

The bill moved forward and could be heard in the 2018 legislative session beginning Jan. 9.

Delgado said state lawmakers need to do more to support first responders with PTSD, and he doesn’t understand why he’s losing his job.

“It’s hurtful,” he said. “It’s a small town. Everyone’s family here, and I thought I was going to be treated like family. … I didn’t think I was going to be treated this way.”

©2017 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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