Newtown police officer with PTSD faces termination

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NEWTOWN OFFICERNEW YORK (CNN) — A Newtown, Connecticut, police officer haunted by the horrific images of the mass shooting at an elementary school there said Monday that he could lose his job after being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Thomas Bean was one of the first officers to respond to the December 2012 shooting that left 26 dead, including 20 children. He told CNN that he has contemplated cutting himself with a razor, continues to have flashbacks, and is left crying some nights by memories of the bloodshed.

“Nothing could prepare you for that,” Bean, a 12-year veteran, told CNN’s Susan Candiotti. “The worst possible scenes you could think of … because all there was, was horror.”

Bean was diagnosed with PTSD and has not been able to return to work. Six months after the mass shooting, the officer — who responded to the tragedy on his day off — was placed on long-term disability, according to Bean and his union.

“That day killed me inside,” he said.

A letter from the police department, obtained by CNN, confirmed that he was “permanently disabled” and could be fired. Bean and his union rep said Newtown could only afford to pay two years of long-term disability. He has a dozen years left on the job before being able to retire.

The union that represents Newtown police officers may file a lawsuit.

“The men and women of the Newtown Police Department who did respond that day did their job,” said Scott Ruszczyk, the union president. “They lived up to their end of their contract. It’s now time for the town to live up to their end.”

Joe Aresimowicz, the House majority leader in the state General Assembly, said Connecticut covers mental health care for long-term disability claims only if the diagnosis is accompanied by physical injuries.

“We don’t just cover mental injuries,” he said. “The last thing you want is a first responder getting ready to enter a situation and have them think, ‘I wonder what long-term harm this will do me?'”

In an e-mail, Newtown Police Chief Michael Kehoe declined to discuss the matter. Local officials did not return calls or e-mails seeking comment.

Bean told CNN that he broke down in tears after Sandy Hook Elementary School was cleared. He drank and smoked excessively. He even contemplated cutting himself with a razor. “I didn’t want to kill myself but I wanted to feel something,” he said. “Had no feeling, no sensation, no nothing.”

Adam Lanza, 20, shot and killed 20 young children and six teachers in the school before taking his own life — a massacre that prompted a national debate over tougher gun laws.

Bean said he knew he was in “deep, deep trouble” after entering a store one day.

“I looked at everyone in that store like they was going to kill me,” he said. “I could not get out of that store fast enough. I looked around, and there was a crowd of people, and all I saw were flashbacks — (the) firehouse with the families or what I saw that day.”

Bean, 38, who’s married with two children, remains in therapy. He said he is grateful for support from one group in particular, called Save a Warrior. Bean urges others suffering from PTSD to seek help.

“The Save A Warrior program that I went through is free,” he said. “We even had some law enforcement from LAPD and NYPD go through the program.”

Other Newtown police officers were diagnosed with PSTD, but Bean was the only one unable to return to work, union officials said.

“If I had my arm chopped off, they’d would say, ‘Oh yeah, he’s hurt.’ But instead they’re like, ‘We can sweep (this) under the rug and not necessarily have to pay because … it’s not physically seen.’ That’s the problem with PTSD … people don’t see it,” said Bean, his voice trailing off.

1 Comment

  • Julie Rehfeld

    This is unconscienable; though the devastating injuries of PTSD aren't visible on the body they are no less real than a gunshot or any other disabling physical injury or wound. The suffering is as real and as traumatic as any that bleeds and steals a person's life.
    As a former RN, I worked for many years with combat veterans and first responders with PTSD and have never been satisfied that what is offered as treatment by our medical model of care does much good. It generally subjects patients to retraumatization via cognitive behavioral therapy which unnecessarily has them "process" the memories of the atrocities they experienced, witnessed, etc.
    After my son, a combat medic in the US Army, returned from a deployment, it became clear to me that some thinking outside the box was in order. To that end, I sought out a very reputable clinical hypnotherapist and begged her to consider creating a program specifically for combat related PTSD, also aimed at first responders. After some initial trepidation, she agreed and after a great deal of hard work, she did exactly what I asked of her.
    This program is free to all military and for a nominal donation of any amount to first responders, law enforcement, etc on her website, and is available to anyone eles who feels they may benefit from it also for a donation of any amount.
    It is a very targeted 7 day program that does not retraumatize the sufferer, but allows them to begin to sleep peacefully again, diminishes their intrusive thoughts, their nightmares, anger and rages and the depression and survivor guilt.
    It is available at http://www.wendi.com/ptsdforveterans/#comment-220

    It is a wonderful program and can be used for as long as necessary, Go download it and if you know someone who could benefit, please pass this on.

    Julie Rehfeld

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