ORLANDO, Fla. - Officer Gerry Realin was a microbiologist, a researcher, who says he turned to law enforcement after seeing the movie “The Rock."
The 1996 film, starring Nicholas Cage and Sean Connery, is about a scientist who teams up with a former British spy to avert a plan to launch chemical weapons on Alcatraz Island.
Realin has spent the last 12 years as a patrol officer with Orlando Police Department, usually called in to handle evidence recovered from meth lab raids.
On June 12, Realin says he was on vacation with his family when the 8:30 a.m. call came in.
“You know, honestly, I don’t know why they activated us at first," he said. “You know, we thought we were assisting the FBI in collecting evidence.”
Instead, Realin said the seven-man Hazmat team removed 32 bodies from Pulse Nightclub. The last victim was taken out at 11:30 p.m.
“I can still see the faces, I can still smell the building, I can still see all the blood,” he told News 6.
Realin has been struggling with nightmares and flashbacks, and according to his attorneys, doctors have deemed unfit to return to work.
His wife Jessica said the current Florida Law ( FL. Statute 112.1815) does not provide long term pay for first responders struggling with mental issues who haven’t been “physically injured” during the same event.
It’s atrocious," she said. "Especially because going in, they are not thinking about anything like that, they’re thinking about, 'I want to help people.'”
Maitland attorney Paolo Longo specializes in first responder rights and workman comp cases.
He said while Realin is getting paid by OPD now, under state law, the department isn’t bound to continue those payments.
“Quite frankly, it’s a very easy fix," he told News 6. “Our legislature has to pass a law for these types of psychiatric injuries.”
Realin said he was never trained for anything like he faced at Pulse.
“I’ve seen homicides and suicides, but not like that … I can say that when me and my team were finished, we agreed that it was better that only a few of us had to see what we saw.”
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