A lesbian former Atlanta police officer gravely wounded in a 1997 shootout is among a group of broken and battered cops airing allegations that the city is fighting their care.
The charges from Pat Cocciolone, who was shot six times and suffered brain damage, and the other four officers are contained in a video produced and recently aired by a police union. The allegations have turned explosive, gaining local media attention and fueling a bitter reaction from Mayor Shirley Franklin.
The Atlanta-Journal Constitution picked up the story on Sunday:
The former officers say the cash-strapped city bureaucracy is fighting every minor treatment and employing a callous actuarial system: “The only way it makes sense is they want me to die so they’ll save money,” Ryan Phinney, a 43-year-old paraplegic who was injured when his squad car was T-boned in 1989, said in an interview last week. “I know that sounds irrational,” he added.
It’s an emotional issue. Sgt. Scott Kreher, the Atlanta police union leader who oversaw the shooting of the video, was so frustrated that at a City Council hearing last week he said he’d like to whack Mayor Shirley Franklin with a baseball bat. He later apologized but stuck by his stand that something is rotten at City Hall.
Franklin’s office called Kreher’s comment “reprehensible” and has vowed publicly to file federal and state complaints against him. She hasn’t addressed the issues raised in the video, but said Saturday that she and her staff are reviewing the former officers’ complaints and will address them later.
Cocciolone, an openly gay officer for 10 years, was shot Oct. 12, 1997 when responding to a domestic disturbance call. She was shot point-blank in the head; her police partner was killed and at least one other officer was injured.
Cocciolone says the city has become more difficult in their dealings. In December, Cocciolone went to pick up a prescription to control the migraine headaches she has suffered since she was shot. The pharmacist, she said, told her the city would not authorize payment for the refill.
She said she was a week without pills, triggering severe headaches that she sometimes still suffers.
Cocciolone said she was victimized by a crazed AR-15-toting gunman who ambushed her and partner Rick Sowa. He died in the attack.
“Now the city of Atlanta is burning me again. How can they do that to someone who is putting their life on …” She pauses. “What’s the word?”
At first, Cocciolone worried that going public with complaints might cause even more delays and challenges for the five.
“It could hurt us, who knows what they’ll do,” she said. “I’m hoping they’ll be too embarrassed to do anything worse.”
WSB also aired a report on the police video and included this snippet about Cocciolone:
Officer Pat Cocciolone was shot six times – once in the head – when she acted as back-up to a fellow officer who was answering a fight call on October 12, 1997. Officer John “Rick” Sowa was killed. Cocciolone’s injuries were extensive enough that she still sees a brain-injury specialist every week. She’s also treated for post-traumatic stress disorder. At times, she is able to speak clearly and seems to follow a conversation quite well. At other times, it’s a struggle.
Cocciolone is not paralyzed but uses a scooter or a cane because one of the bullets that struck her badly damaged a hip making it painful to walk. She says she first noticed a changed attitude at the city about a year ago. She tells Channel 2 she’s been denied pharmaceuticals her doctors ordered and has been unable to get the city to provide a special toilet which she needs because of her handicapped condition. Cocciolone says she paid for the toilet and is still waiting to be reimbursed. That, she says, is all too common. Pat Cocciolone says many times she has just paid for modifications to her home to accommodate her injuries because fighting the city is too much trouble.
Photo: Pat Cocciolone by Bita Honarvar, Atlanta Journal-Constitution