Orlando LEO shot in the helmet at Pulse faces looming disability deadline, possible termination

Michael Napolitano suffered injuries including post-traumatic stress disorder after he was shot in his Kevlar helmet during the Pulse shooting

By Tess Sheets
Orlando Sentinel

ORLANDO — Orlando police officer Michael Napolitano, who was shot in the helmet while responding to the 2016 massacre at Pulse nightclub, faces an uncertain future with the Police Department as a deadline for his disability benefits looms in less than two months.

At a police pension board meeting Thursday, members of the union that represents Orlando cops said Napolitano received a phone call from the agency that morning, notifying him he would be terminated Sept. 30 if he cannot appear before the pension board by that date.

But the union said Napolitano has not yet been scheduled by the city for an Individual Medical Exam, or IME, which is required before an injured employee can appear before the board to seek disability retirement.

Napolitano, who suffered injuries including post-traumatic stress disorder after he was shot in his Kevlar helmet during the Pulse shooting, had previously worked in a light duty position for the Police Department following the shooting until a doctor recommended more duty restrictions, according to Shawn Dunlap, president of the union that represents Orlando cops.

Dunlap said OPD could no longer accommodate his disability, so Napolitano is seeking a disability retirement with pension.

Randy Thames, labor chair for the Fraternal Order of Police, which is representing Napolitano, said at the meeting Thursday the officer has been waiting 15 weeks for the medical exam to be scheduled.

“That’s why we were kind of surprised there wasn’t some sort extension,” Dunlap said.

In an email, OPD said the agency is required to terminate an employee when their pension application has been pending more than 180 days.

Termination does not make an employee ineligible to seek a disability pension, as that decision is made by the board, which is “an independent legal entity,” according to OPD.

Pension board chairman Jay Smith at the meeting cited difficulty finding a doctor through Advent Health — the hospital contracted to provide physicians for medical exams — who specializes in Napolitano’s ailments. Smith said the board would work to seek other doctors who would be able to conduct Napolitano’s exam if Advent Health is unable to provide one by Monday.

“If they can’t manage it, then we’re going to have to take the case ourselves," Smith said."... We’ll find a doctor that’s suitable to handle this particular condition and render an IME and the board will take responsibility for the cost that’s related to that."

In a statement, OPD spokesman Cory Burkath hailed Napolitano for “bravely [carrying] out his duties to help us take down a terrorist who committed a horrific act of violence against the Orlando community.”

“Michael Napolitano will always be part of our OPD family and we are committed to his personal health and well-being,” Burkath said. “... Officer Napolitano has served the City of Orlando and its residents with the pride, courage, and commitment that our officers are known for, and this community will forever be grateful to him for his service. ... The Orlando Police Department will continue to work with and support Officer Napolitano.”

©2019 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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