The Police NewsHouston
HPD officer shot in the line of duty now denied medical benefits - VIDEO
By Ted Oberg
Friday, February 09, 2018 09:03AM
HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- It was a heinous murder-suicide that shocked Houston. A man shot and killed his wife, his girlfriend and his three children. Then he shot and killed himself.
In the process, he also shot Houston police officer Michael Bozeman.
What's shocking today, Bozeman says, is that after putting his life on the line, the city now doesn't want to pay for medical bills he and his doctor say are directly related to the shooting.
Valentines Day, 2003
Bozeman was a police officer for 30 years.
"It's one of those careers I always wanted growing up," Bozeman said. "I loved it."
Bozeman was assigned a case one day that would alter his life forever.
He remembers the day well.
It was Valentine's Day, 2003.
"My plan was to go to work for half a shift, then take half a shift off to take my wife to a Valentine's Day dinner."
The minute he walked into work, he was handed a missing woman case.
He quickly deciphered that the woman was in an "on again, off again" relationship with a man in west Houston. Bozeman and two others took off toward the house.
Neighbors said they heard 14-15 gunshots days earlier. No one reported it.
Bozeman knew there might be small children inside. So he got permission to go inside to check it out.
When he tried to go in through a window, "almost immediately" he was met with gunfire.
"I remember getting up and reaching to my left side and verifying by looking at my hand that I was bleeding," Bozeman said. "I had been hit."
"I recall feeling the bullet tumble... I could feel it tumbling over and over as it passed through me."
Bozeman's police instincts were still buzzing in his head. Despite his wound, he put his head back inside the house to look for the suspect.
He used a hypnosis technique to keep himself calm, carefully, precisely and importantly keeping his blood pressure low.
"He was well hidden upstairs."
Gunfire was still hailing down from the house.
Bozeman was able to get clear of the house, but the damage inside was serious. The bullet went all the way through him, hitting most of his internal organs. He was bleeding profusely.
He was able to get a phone. He called his daughter.
"I wanted to talk to her in case it was going to be the last time," he said.
"'Daddy's been shot'," he told her. He called his wife too.
His injuries grave, he was finally taken to a Life Flight helicopter.
In a moment of levity, Bozeman told paramedics who were ripping his clothes off to access the wound to cut everything but his brand new boots.
"I told them, 'if I'm going to the hospital, then I'm going with my boots on.'"
News footage of paramedics wheeling Bozeman into the hospital shows him on a gurney covered in blankets, wearing those brand new boots.
Bozeman's life became the hospital. He had surgery after surgery, 27 in total. In some cases, doctors had to perform a "wash out" procedure. Bozeman describes it as taking everything out --intestines, organs-- to wash them out because of massive infection.
"The infection almost killed me."
For the first six months, he couldn't eat anything, including ice chips. The damage to his insides was just too great to handle solid food.
Just over a year later, Bozeman walked back into HPD headquarters. The city medically retired him in 2005.
Two years ago, as Bozeman continued to heal from his wound, he developed gallbladder issues. It's normally a pretty simple prognosis for someone who hasn't been shot, but for someone who has, it gets complicated. Bozeman's abdomen is full of scar tissue from his wound.
The city of Houston's worker comp system decided the issues with his gallbladder were not related to the gunshot. He paid the bills on his own with retiree health care, costing him thousands of extra dollars.
"My doctor says that it's all related, without a doubt," Bozeman said.
It's true. We saw the report from his doctor.
The city's doctor, Dr. Gabriel Habib never treated, saw or even talked to Bozeman. At first, he wrote the recent illness was "most likely" connected to the gun shot, but then "corrects" his opinion to say they aren't.
We asked Dr. George Miller to review both reports. Miller has done medical record review for insurance companies and for governments.
"But for being shot, he would not have had any of the complications that have occurreed subsequent," Miller said. "I can't believe the police officer is not owed worker's comp benefits for his abdominal issue from the scar tissue for the rest of his life."
Bozeman's denial is not a surprise to the police union where leaders told us they fight these issues frequently.
Denials across the city hover around 30 percent of all worker's comp claims. Bozeman, 15 years from being shot, is not willing to be one of them.
"I took a bullet and bled for this city, I nearly died," Bozeman said. "Now they treat me like I don't exist."
The city of Houston denied our request for an interview and multiple requests for a written response to Bozeman's case.
A spokesman told us, "The city Legal Department confirms that information about individual worker's comp cases, including how much money, if any, has already been provided to a claimant to cover medical bills, is confidential."
Bozeman has been denied once and is waiting on an answer for his appeal.
As Bozeman fights for himself, he's adamant he isn't the only employee caught in the system. Statistics from the City of Houston show 25% of Workers' Compensation cases are denied. Bozeman says the system is stacked against him in Texas making it difficult, Bozeman says, to get attorneys to sign on to cases like his. His quarrel is not just with the City of Houston system which denied his claim, but with the state which regulates all of Workers' Compensation.
Bozeman told us he is eager to advocate not just for himself but to convince lawmakers to change the system, "There are many injured employees who are now facing this very tedious, cumbersome and in my estimation one-sided Texas Workers' Comp system."
According to documents posted on the Texas Department of Insurance, the system was reformed in 2005, to better administer the program and "control medial costs."
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