Sacramento, CA – The Orange County Register reports that four Orange County sheriff’s deputies have filed workers compensation claims against the county for physical and psychological injuries they say they suffered when they attended a country music festival in Las Vegas where a gunman killed 58 people.
Several Orange County deputies at the Route 91 Harvest festival quickly assumed life-saving roles – protecting the perimeter of the area with a shotgun in one case and administering medical care in other instances. Though the deputies were in Las Vegas on their personal time, their workers’ compensation claims will make the case that they acted as on-duty law enforcement officers when they sprang into action to help others.
The Orange County Board of Supervisors is set to meet Tuesday, Oct. 17, in closed session to discuss the claims.
The deputies filed their claims only a few days after the Oct. 1 shooting in which 64-year-old retiree Stephen Paddock fired into the festival crowd, killing 58 people and wounding more than 500.
Tom Dominguez, president of the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, said he traveled to Las Vegas the day after the shooting and, while there, encouraged his deputies who had helped others the night before to file claims. Those claims, if approved, could require the county to pay medical bills connected to the episode. The deputies also wouldn’t have to use vacation or sick days to take time off for their injuries.
“The sheriff’s department has an expectation that its deputy sheriffs, that when they are faced with circumstances where the public is in grave danger – they should take action,” Dominguez said.
“The county has to be very cautious in these cases,” Dominguez added. “If they deny the claims, then the message that they’re sending to their peace officers is not to take action when it is certainly warranted.”
The county did not name the deputies who submitted claims. But following the shooting, the Southern California News Group reported the experiences of several Orange County deputies on the scene.
Deputy Joe Owen, sustained non-life-threatening injuries after he was shot in the abdomen and thigh. Deputy Melanie Cooper administered CPR on six of seven people, later saying the event was the “most traumatic thing I’ve ever been through.” Deputies Mark Seamans and Brandon Mundy helped people escape and applied medical care to others. And Deputy Garrett Eggert, using a shotgun given to him by local law enforcement, helped to protect the perimeter.
Supervisor Todd Spitzer said he asked the board to consider the claims in closed session after he learned the county likely would have rejected them administratively. Spitzer said under a strict interpretation of California law, workers’ compensation might only extend to law enforcement officers responding to an emergency within the state. But he said he didn’t want the claims to be rejected summarily because he didn’t want to dissuade deputies from helping in emergencies in the future.
“These police officers went into their instinctive training mode, and I’m not going to send a message that Orange County is going to abandon any of its peace officers who are trying to save lives,” said Spitzer, who is running for district attorney.
Dominguez disagreed with Spitzer’s interpretation of California workers’ compensation law but acknowledged that it is an extremely rare occurrence for police officers to file claims stemming from incidents that occurred out of state. He could not recall another time that had happened in Orange County. Read More…