CORVALLIS, Ore. – The sergeant with the Benton County Sheriff’s Office who was shot three times more than a year ago is now fighting for other first responders.
Sergeant David Peterson returned to his old patrol shift Monday night for the first time since August 2012. But recovering from his bullet wounds is not the only fight he’s fighting.
“I lost so much blood that I had to be revived,” Peterson said. “I mean they didn’t do CPR or anything; there just wasn’t anything left to pump. I bled out.”
When his wife first saw him wheeled from the emergency room to the operating room, she thought she had lost him.
This was on Aug. 11, 2012, immediately following a moment Sgt. Peterson will never forget.
“He turned right around, and I remember three shots,” Peterson said. “Boom boom boom. I could see the muzzle flash and hear the shots.”
Not his favorite memory, but he is trying to make it something positive.
Demecio Cardenas Jr. was sentenced to two ten-year sentences for attempted aggravated murder for shooting Sgt. Peterson and Salem Police Corporal Andrew Connolly.
“He only got twenty years for shooting two police officers,” Peterson said. That’s ridiculous.”
Sergeant Peterson is teaming up with Oregon State Representative Sara Gelser (D – District 16) to take legislative action. Under Measure 11, passed by Oregon voters in 1994, attempted aggravated murder has a minimum mandatory sentence of ten years.
“Every day officers go to work, and every day their families are relieved to see them come home,” said Rep. Gelser. “And we need to be standing up for them every day.”
Gelser and Peterson are hoping to increase the minimum mandatory sentence for those who are convicted of attempted aggravated murder if the victim is a law enforcement officer.
“They risk their lives to keep our communities and our homes and our businesses safe,” Gelser said. I believe it’s incumbent on the legislature to do everything we can to have their back when they’re hurt by having our backs.”
But that’s not all Sgt. Peterson is fighting for.
“When I got back to work and looked at my benefits, I thought wait a minute.”
Peterson realized that while he was recovering, he was not receiving any PERS benefits.
“Basically as it is now, if you get shot in the line of duty, you get financially penalized, on top of everything that you and your family already have to deal with,” he said.
He received worker’s compensation, which he says was a great, but he lost over $11,000 in benefits and wages. As has Corporal Connolly.
“It’s simply not right,” Peterson said.
He is also working with Rep. Gelser to make sure that firefighters and law enforcement officers receive full pay and retirement benefits if they are injured in the line of duty.
“I understand that if I trip down the hallway and break my arm and I’m out for two months, that’s totally fine,” Peterson said. “That’s worker’s comp, the normal worker’s comp thing should kick in. But there’s a difference between first responders when they’re injured in the line of duty.”
Representative Gelser is introducing a bill in this February’s session to increase the minimum mandatory sentence for those who are convicted of attempted aggravated murder of a law enforcement officer. She is waiting until 2015 to discuss PERS benefits, which is when the legislature will have a longer session.