Wounded Hero Returns GoFundMe Donations Because State Says They're Illegal
Falmouth, MA – A wounded police officer has returned all of the donations he received from the community because of a Massachusetts law that prohibits him from accepting gifts of more than $50.
Falmouth Police Officers Donald DeMiranda and Ryan Moore were shot in the line of duty on July 27 while responding to a call for a disorderly person at a home in East Falmouth.
Although both men survived, Officer DeMiranda suffered the most serious injuries and is still recovering months later.
He was hit by two bullets – one of which struck him in the shoulder. The other hit his vest but did not penetrate, WCVB reported.
Officer DeMiranda’s community and police family pulled together to raise money to help the officer get through the difficult time, WFXT reported.
A GoFundMe campaign raised more than $12,000 for Officer DeMiranda, and a little boy from the community raised $1,600 with a lemonade stand that he split between Officers DeMiranda and Moore.
“You’re talking about a kid who was born and raised here, and went into a situation in his hometown," Jennifer Hinds, who went to high school with Officer DeMiranda, told WFXT.
But then Officer DeMiranda and his friends got the bad news – their financial assistance violated a Massachusetts conflict-of-interest law, and the still-recovering officer would have to return it all.
The law applies to all municipal, county, and state employees, and “prohibits a public employee from requesting or receiving anything of substantial value for or because of an official act or an act within the public employee’s official responsibility,” according to WFXT.
Falmouth Police Chief Edward Dunne told WFXT that Officer DeMiranda decided to return all of the money as soon as he found out he was breaking the law.
His friends and supporters don’t think the law should apply to a police officer wounded while serving his community.
"Police officers make most of their money from details and overtime, even though his base pay, [which] he’s still receiving, more than 50 percent of his pay is gone until he can get back," Hinds said.
The long-time friend of Officer DeMiranda said his family was struggling.
“I think a lot of people are saddened, it’s a two-family working household, they have kids [and] instead of being home and helping Donny recuperate, Kelly has got to go and work even more so she can make up the missing money they’re not receiving," she said.
The Falmouth town council checked with the state ethics commission to see if there was a loophole that would allow the community to help Officer DeMiranda and his family.
They learned there was no exception for first responder heroes injured in the line of duty while serving their communities, WFXT reported.
The president of the Massachusetts Police Chiefs Association, Dudley Police Chief Steven Wojnar, said he does not agree with the law.
“There should be some exceptions carved out in the law to provide these contributions to cover costs associated with the expenses incurred by these officers,” Chief Wojnar said. “The financial issues associated with things like lost work time and un covered medical expenses can impact police officers the same as other people.”
But for now, Officer DeMiranda has returned the generous contributions and many of his donors have given them to other charitable organizations.
Nine-year-old Joe Ledwick took the money he raised with his lemonade stand and re-donated it to the Falmouth Police Support Fund, WFXT reported.
Officer DeMiranda had been a member of the Falmouth Police Department for three years when he was shot, WCVB reported. In that time, he was twice awarded the department’s “Officer of the Month.”