Houston Denies Surgery Coverage For Cop Shot In Line Of Duty
Houston, TX – A 30-year veteran of the Houston Police Department (HPD) was shot in the side by a man who had just killed his wife, his girlfriend, and his three children on Valentine’s Day of 2003.
The bullet went all the way through then-Sergeant Michael Bozeman, tearing up almost all of his internal organs on its way.
Twenty-seven surgeries later, and the police department has decided to stop paying for healthcare for some medical issues related to the Bozeman’s injuries he received in the line of duty, KTRK reported.
Sgt. Bozeman, a homicide investigator, was responding to a call about a missing 28-year-old woman named Flor Estela Roque, who had been missing for five days, on the night he was shot.
The Houston Chronicle reported that Sgt. Bozeman and other officers went looking for her at the home of her married boyfriend, Purnell "Rick" Cauley.
No one answered the door, but there were signs something was amiss. Knowing there were children inside, Sgt. Bozeman attempted to gain entry through a window.
He was shot on his way through by Cauley, who was holed up inside with the dead bodies of Roque, his wife, and his five-, six-, and ten-year-old children.
Cauley eventually shot himself, after a long standoff with police, according to The Houston Chronicle.
Sgt. Bozeman believed he had been fatally shot, and called his 11-year-old daughter and his wife while he waited for an ambulance to transport him from the scene. His wife was also a homicide investigator for HPD.
The sergeant’s insides were torn up from the bullet. The abdominal damage was so bad that surgeons had to go through his small intestines inch by inch to make repairs, but they were able to save him.
In the first year, he had 22 surgeries to repair the damage wrought by the gunshot wound he had gotten in the line of duty. He spent 145 days in bed, and dropped from 200 pounds to 140 pounds.
Doctors had to perform a "wash out" procedure several times, taking out all of his organs to wash them out because of massive infection, and then putting them back in, KTRK reported.
But with extensive therapy and true hard work, Sgt. Bozeman returned to active duty on the streets less than a year after he was shot.
He continued to have problems from the injury and Houston Police medically retired Sgt. Bozeman in 2005.
In 2016, Bozeman developed gall bladder problems that his doctor said could be directly attributed to his gunshot injury, according to KTRK.
But the city of Houston’s worker’s compensation office disagreed, and refused to cover the treatment he required. That decision forced Bozeman to pay out of his own pocket for thousands of dollars in medical bills that were directly attributable to an on-duty injury with the Houston Police.
"My doctor says that it's all related, without a doubt," Bozeman told KTRK.
Dr. Gabriel Habib, the city’s doctor, initially said the gall bladder problems were related to the on-duty injury, but later changed his opinion and said they weren’t, resulting in a denial of coverage. All that without ever having met or spoken to Bozeman, KTRK reported.
Unfortunately, the treatment Bozeman has received from the city is not unique.
Former-Houston Police Officer Jill Hesseldahl had to battle to get workman’s compensation to approve tests after a car crash on duty, and then waited almost two years for major surgery on her neck and back.
She said she believed the delay in treatment contributed significantly to the end of her career in law enforcement.
KTRK reported that statistics from the city of Houston showed 25 percent of Workers' Compensation cases were denied.
Bozeman has appealed the denial for his case.
"I took a bullet and bled for this city, I nearly died," Bozeman told KTRK. "Now they treat me like I don't exist."