City Officials Dispute Wounded Casper Police Officer’s Claims [VIDEO]
UPDATE: We have added video from the press conference itself with comments from the Mayor, City Manager and a couple of council members.
City of Casper officials gathered in City Hall on Tuesday to dispute claims made by wounded Casper Police Officer Jacob Carlson, who says the police chief demanded that he return to work despite medical advice to the contrary.
Carlson, who was shot several times by a suspect in early May and fought for his life at Wyoming Medical Center for about a month afterward, has been on administrative leave and receiving full pay.
However, while visiting his patrol team at about 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Carlson checked his work mailbox at the police department and found a letter signed by Chief Keith McPheeters. That letter informed Carlson that effective the previous Wednesday, Carlson was released from administrative leave and placed on restricted duty status.
The letter directed Carlson to report for duty in the police department's Career Services Unit on Monday, August 20. Carlson was assigned four ten-hour shifts each week, per the letter.
In an interview Tuesday, Carlson said he has exchanged text messages with McPheeters regarding his return to work.
McPheeters sent Carlson a text message on Tuesday, Aug. 14, and asked Carlson to meet him in his office that afternoon. Carlson showed up at 2 p.m. and began to explain that his doctor was concerned that Carlson could be developing a hernia.
"The word 'hernia' hadn't even left my mouth yet, and he starts saying, 'I expect you at work tomorrow,' which would be Wednesday, the fifteenth," Carlson said.
"He explained that I would be coming off admin leave since the investigation was complete at this point, which I understand. I realize I can't just be on admin leave for the rest of my life," Carlson said. "He tells me that he'll have a letter for me on Wednesday, saying that I'll be off admin leave, I'll be expected to return to work at a full forty-hour work week in career services, which is our recruitment and retention portion of the department."
"That kind of caught me off-guard, so I began to tell him that I was probably planning on retiring. I would like to retire for me and my wife's sake, but still work part-time for the PD if they would allow it," Carlson continued. "I can't remember exactly what he said, but something to the effect of 'I have jobs that are forty hours per week; I don't have jobs that are part-time,' is at least how I perceived it."
Carlson said the meeting then ended, and he returned home. He called his doctor's office requesting a letter allowing him to return to work.
"My doctor's a busy person, so he can't just answer every single call that I have for him. They told me they would get it for me as soon as possible," Carlson said. "So on Wednesday, the day the letter was drafted,
"Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday went by -- there were no issues those days. Monday I get a text saying, 'I was expecting you at work this morning. Have you heard from your doctor?' At that point, I immediately called the doctor, which I left a message for the week prior. They told me they'll get it as soon as they can get to it," Carlson said. "Then I let the chief know that I talked to the doctor's office and they're working on my letter."
"At this point, I've been approached three times by the chief now, all of which have been in text message or in a personal meeting, saying I'm to return to work, and I had not yet talked to my doctor," Carlson explained.
The letter regarding Carlson's release from administrative leave is dated August 14. He says he was removed from administrative leave on August 15, and on Monday Carlson received approval from his doctor to work four hours per day.
But McPheeters, in his letter, assigned Carlson to work 10-hour shifts Monday through Thursday.
"So all the way up to this point, it's been, 'You're to return to work,' and my doctor hadn't agreed to this yet," Carlson said. "To text me and say, 'I need to meet you today,' as I show up explaining a medical issue that I'm having, being told I'm to return to work tomorrow, I think is outrageous."
On Monday, Carlson's attorney Don Fuller sent a letter to McPheeters, with copies also hand-delivered to members of Casper City Council as well as City Attorney John Henley. Fuller provided copies of the letter to local media, and the full letter can be viewed below.
Following Fuller's initial release of the letter and a story by the Casper Star-Tribune on Monday, City Manager Carter Napier called a news conference Tuesday morning in City Hall to address what he termed Fuller's "allegations."
As members of the news media filed into the room, so too did Fuller and Carlson. However, City Attorney John Hanley asked Fuller to leave. A heated exchange followed, and Fuller was ejected from the meeting.
You can see the disagreement in this video.
The rest of the news conference involved Napier, Mayor Ray Pacheco, and Councilmembers Kenyne Humphrey, Chris Walsh and Dallas Laird voicing support for Carlson and praising for his actions during the May shootout.
The officials took questions at the conclusion of the news conference, but none of them offered any alternate version of last week's meeting between McPheeters and Carlson. Napier, for his part, emphatically criticized the Star-Tribune's story released Monday, saying in part that the paper should have reached out to his office for comment before running the story.
Napier, when asked about the Aug. 14 letter telling Carlson he would report for duty the following day, said that the letter had been prepared, but never formally delivered to Carlson.
Laird told Napier, Pacheco, Henley and his fellow council members that he believed Fuller and Carlson should have been allowed into the news conference. Laird was not present for the initial exchange between Fuller and Henley that preceded the conference.
McPheeters was set to give a statement to media at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday. He was not present during the morning news conference.
Napier, when questioned regarding McPheeters's whereabouts during the news conference, said, "Working his day here."
You can watch much of the press conference below.