Court: No workers' comp for cops who kill suspects
The seal of the Supreme Court of South Carolina is seen on a wall. (File/FOX Carolina)
COLUMBIA, SC (AP) -
South Carolina law officers who are distressed after killing someone in the line of duty aren't entitled to workers' compensation.
The state Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled current law doesn't cover benefits for officers because they know they may have to use deadly force.
But the justices also said state law needs to be amended so that more people can get workers' compensation benefits.
Former Spartanburg County Sheriff's deputy Brandon Bentley was denied workers' compensation, with commissioners noting deputies get training on deadly force and know they might have to use it.
Brandon Bentley had been working in law enforcement for nine years when he responded to a 911 call about a neighbor dispute in Spartanburg County Oct. 21, 2009.
According to Bentley, when he arrived to the scene a suspect threatened to take his gun and kill him. Bentley shot the man once in the chest, the man later died from his injuries.
Three years later, Bentley continues to suffer with severe post traumatic stress. He did not feel up to speaking with FOX Carolina, but his wife Susan told us he's now a different person.
"I always called him 'the calm to my storm,' but after the shooting our lives began to unravel," said Susan Bentley.
Susan said everyday is a struggle for her husband, who is battling invisible injuries. He is on medication, under the care of a physician and unable to work. She said he doesn't do things normal people do, he rarely leaves the house and avoids large crowds. Susan Bentley said her husband has also attempted suicide on several occasions.
"PTSD is a real injury, just as real as losing a limb," said Susan Bentley. "It needs to be treated as such."
But the couple hasn't been able to receive workers' compensation to pay his medical bills, and more bad news came Wednesday for the couple.
The State Supreme Court justices stated "The use of deadly force is within the normal scope and duties of a Spartanburg County Deputy Sheriff." They ruled that when Bentley shot and killed a man, it was not the unusual and extraordinary circumstances needed to qualify for compensation.
A Greenville attorney told FOX Carolina that it's difficult for all first responders to prove they've been under extraordinary and unusual job conditions due to the nature of their work.
"Current law makes it virtually impossible for first responders to win a claim based on a psychological injury, I think that's terribly unfair to those people we rely on to help us in a time of need," said attorney Kathryn Williams.
Change is in the hands of lawmakers, if they vote to amend the law to broaden the eligibility requirements, South Carolina would join five other states that have already done so.
The Bentley's have created a Facebook page to support other officers going through similar situations
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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