Casper, WY – City and police officials have given an officer who was shot multiple times in the line of duty an additional eight weeks of leave after the city attorney tossed the wounded officer’s attorney out of a press conference.
Casper Police Officer Jacob Carlson, 27, was shot twice in the legs and once in the lower abdomen during the May 6 gun battle with 38-year-old David Wolosin, and required more than 100 units of blood to survive. He was also hit by rounds that were partially stopped by his vest.
His heart actually stopped five times during one of the operations to save him.
The wounded hero was treated for a shattered pelvis, a severed artery in his pelvic area, infections, and nerve damage for more than a month at the Wyoming Medical Center.
Since his release, he’s attended physical therapy twice a week and still has not recovered full movement of his left foot. He has trouble walking on uneven ground, the Casper Star-Tribune reported.
Casper Police Chief Keith McPheeters awarded Officer Carlson a Purple Heart and a Medal of Valor on July 30 at an emotional ceremony attended by more than 1,000 citizens, the Casper Star-Tribune reported. The chief called Officer Carlson’s survival “miraculous” at the event.
But then 15 days later, the chief called the wounded officer into his office and told him that he needed to return to work the next day or take sick leave, according to the Casper Star-Tribune.
Officer Carlson’s doctors said there was no way the officer was ready to be medically cleared to return to work, but the police chief took the wounded hero off administrative leave anyway.
There was massive blowback from the community at what was perceived as a heartless ultimatum to a local hero once Officer Carlson’s story became public.
City officials quickly sought to change the narrative.
First, City Manager Carter Napier claimed that Officer Carlson was still on administrative leave and drawing a full salary, according to the Casper Star-Tribune.
But then Officer Carlson’s attorney, Don Fuller, shared a letter signed by Chief McPheeters that said the police department had removed the wounded officer from leave.
The letter ordered Officer Carlson to report for duty in the police department's Career Services Unit on Aug. 20, KTWO reported.
The letter also assigned Officer Carlson four ten-hour shifts each week, according to KTWO.
Fuller also shared with the media the letter he had sent Chief McPheeters in response on Aug. 20 which asked that the decision to return Officer Carlson to full duty be reconsidered.
The letter also asked if it was true that Officer Carlson “has to replace his gun that was disabled and ruined in the shootout with his own money.”
Desperate to do damage control, the city of Casper held a press conference about Officer Carlson’s status on Aug. 21. But that turned into a complete disaster, according to KTWO.
Before the press briefing had formally begun, City Attorney John Henley kicked Fuller out of the room. And lacking representation, Officer Carlson had to follow Fuller out the door, the Casper Star-Tribune reported.
The entire brouhaha was captured on video.
Henley told Fuller - in front of a room full of reporters - that his behavior the day before had been “reprehensible,” referring to the release of the letters.
“The man’s a hero, for God’s sake. You want to cut his pay. You want to fire him. That’s what you’re setting him up for by being insubordinate, by not going to work,” Officer Carlson’s attorney told the city attorney and Casper Mayor Ray Pacheco, the video showed.
“That’s the problem with having you here, buddy,” Henley told Fuller. “It’s just lies. Lies!”
“What’s lies?” Fuller asked, but at that point the mayor asked him to leave and said the press conference was about to begin.
Officer Carlson left with his attorney to the dismay of the mayor and city attorney, the video showed.
The city manager proceeded to give a press conference that didn’t hold much water given the information in the letters that had been released by the officer’s attorney.
But later the same day, perhaps after realizing the atrocious optics of the city’s treatment of the police officer who was recovering from multiple line-of-duty gunshots wounds, Chief McPheeters called reporters back for a second press conference.
The chief had not been present at the morning media briefing.
Chief McPheeters said he’d “failed to effectively communicate” with Officer Carlson and that his actions had been based on his “perception” of what the wounded officer wanted and needed, according to the Casper Star-Tribune.
At that point, the chief, the city manager, and the city attorney said they had all agreed to extend an additional eight weeks of leave to Officer Carlson.
“The City of Casper is looking forward to learning of Officer Carlson’s further improvement and, if he desires, his return to work with the City of Casper,” according to the city’s formal statement.
Officer Carlson has said that all of his doctors have said he should be declared fully disabled, but one doctor told the officer that there was a possibility his condition would improve to a partial disability, but said it would take at least a year to get there.
When Officer Carlson met with Chief McPheeters on Aug. 14, he told the chief that he was considering taking a medical retirement, but that he would like to return to the department part-time to supplement the reduced income he would be earning.
Officer Carlson told the Casper Star-Tribune that the chief said part-time wasn’t an option.
“Disability only covers 60 percent of his income. Should an officer receive a 40 percent pay cut for being shot?” Fuller asked in the letter he sent to Chief McPheeters.
“Due to the severity of his injuries, he has numerous doctors,” Fuller wrote. “They all unanimously agree that Jake should not be cleared for work. The doctors say he may never be able to return to duties, and if he does, it will be at least a year away.”
Officer Carlson told the Casper Star-Tribune that he felt like the chief hadn’t given him enough time to recover from the on-duty injuries.
After he was shot, the officer’s main goal was to return to the police department, even if only in a partial capacity. His treatment by the department has made him reconsider.
“I don’t even want to be around it anymore,” he told the Casper Star-Tribune.