ORLANDO, Fla. – The Orlando Police Department Pension Board granted the early retirement and pension for an officer diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after he was assigned to carry bodies out of Pulse nightclub.
Officer Gerry Realin, 37, asked the board to approve his early retirement on permanent disability. The veteran officer was not present for the board’s decision. His wife, Jessica Realin, said doctors told her it would be too stressful for him.
Gerry Realin said he was glad the board came to the decision it did and he was thankful to everyone who supported him in his battle.
"My wife stayed on the front lines for me. I just don't know what I'd do without her and I just wanted to make sure she was OK all morning," Gerry Realin said.
He said now he hopes can focus on healing.
"At least I think I can start to feel free and I can start to move on, because that's all I've wanted to do, is move on," Gerry Realin said. "I think this was a big hurdle and I'm just glad this part is over so that I don't have to feel so guilty for not being able to provide for my family."
Gerry Realin was one of seven officers assigned on June 12 to remove some of the 49 dead from the Pulse building. He was diagnosed with severe post-traumatic stress disorder following his assignment to the nightclub and, according to his treating physicians, has been unable to return to work in any capacity.
The board found that Realin's PTSD was a permanent and total disability directly attributed to his response to the mass shooting.
After the decision, Jessica Realin was very emotional and thanked the board for their time and for hearing their case.
"This has been a very difficult time for my family," she said. "Listening to the evidence today was very hard."
Several Pulse victims’ family members spoke at the hearing in support of Gerry Realin, including Amanda Alvear’s mother and the nightclub owner, Barbara Poma.
The police department told Gerry Realin in June, just one year after the Pulse shooting, that he would receive his final paycheck, after he did not report back to work when he was ordered by the city in March.
Days after the notification, Gerry Realin’s independent psychiatrist assigned to the OPD Pension Board said in June that Realin is “permanently and totally disabled.”
His doctors said in March he was fit for desk work but only outside of the police force, city officials said.
Gerry Realin and his wife, Jessica, told News 6 he would need to sell everything they own to make ends meet if he lost his benefits.
He will now be able to retire and receive his benefits, and his wife said their family will be able to begin to heal, and he can get the therapy he needs.
"I've been so immersed in this. We haven't been able to go through the therapy process," Jessica Realin said.
The Orlando Police Department assigned him to a red-light safety program. Gerry Realin argued that the program was still within the police department.
Jessica Reallin has been fighting to convince state lawmakers to pass a workman’s comp law that would provide financial coverage for first responders diagnosed with PTSD.
The community remembers the victims of the Pulse tragedy on Orlando United Day.
“We will continue to fight for PTSD coverage, because I know that there’s more out there,” Jessica Realin said after the board’s decision Thursday.