Lone Tree, CO – A police officer who was injured in the line of duty received his walking papers on the day he returned to work.
Lone Tree Police Officer Robert Chamberlain was responding to a burglary call in November of 2017 when he had a severe seizure while driving, and crashed his police vehicle into another car, KDVR reported.
The officer remained unconscious for two days, and spent a week in the intensive care unit at Sky Ridge Medical Center.
Officer Chamberlain had no history of seizures; however, the day before the accident, he and his partner suffered carbon monoxide poisoning while driving a police Ford Explorer that had a history of carbon monoxide problems, KCNC reported.
“One of the doctors said carbon monoxide poisoning can cause seizures like that,” he said.
The officer’s family said that Lone Tree Police Chief Kirk Wilson came to the hospital after Officer Chamberlain was hurt on duty and told his wife, Shanna Chamberlain, that the crash “wasn’t that severe,” and that the department was not liable for what happened.
The department denied worker’s compensation coverage to the 10-year veteran of the Lone Tree PD.
Officer Chamberlain said he was happy to return to light duty on Feb. 28, but upon arrival at the station, he was greeted with a termination letter from the police chief.
Chief Wilson handed the injured officer a letter that said his absence was creating safety issues because it was short-staffing the department, KCNC reported.
“In this current climate,” the chief wrote, “it is imperative that we remain at full staff in the police department as much as possible. The absence of a full-time police officer for eight months’ time has resulted in the Department being short staffed on shifts, which creates safety concerns for our other officers…”
"Because your Family Medical Leave Act has long since been exhausted and you are unable to return to full duty at this time or the immediate future, we can no longer hold your position vacant,” the termination letter read.
The now-former police officer told KDVR he only spent three months recovering from the on-duty crash, and that the other five months the chief was referring to was time off he was ordered to take after he found a young person who had committed suicide last summer.
He said he was ready to return to work soon after that incident but the city’s doctor wouldn’t clear him.
His wife Shanna told KDVR that the city cancelled her husband’s health insurance as of March 1.
"I feel like they don't want to pay his medical bills and they just don't want the liability," Shanna said.
Lone Tree PD currently has three other officers on light duty, and not all of them are due to on-duty injuries, she said.
"I think they all deserve [light-duty assignment], but we definitely deserve it for somebody who was on-duty and injured," Shanna said.
Chamberlain and his wife have hired an attorney and planned to file a wrongful termination lawsuit against the Lone Tree PD.
“I put myself out there on the line for 10 years, and I just get booted out the door because I got injured on the job,” he said. “I hope this doesn’t happen to the brothers I worked with.”
The city of Lone Tree has refused to explain why Chamberlain's injuries wouldn't fall under worker's compensation, KDVR reported.
In a written statement, the city said it could not comment because it was a personnel matter.