ITHACA, N.Y. — Officer Anthony Augustine wanted to return to the Ithaca Police Department after he was shot while pursuing a suspect on West Hill in October 2012.
He won’t be able to.
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“There were issues with him being able to carry out the duties of his job,” says Kevin Sutherland, chief of staff for Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick.
“He really wanted to come back, but there were health-related issues that would put himself — and, potentially, other officers — at risk.”
The decision that Augustine would not be able to return to duty as an officer was ultimately made by Ithaca Police Chief John Barber after consultations with doctors, according to Mayor Svante Myrick.
On Wednesday night, City Hall officials will take up a proposed healthcare plan for Augustine’s retirement.
The package marks an unprecedented effort by Ithaca to pay back Augustine for his sacrifice to the city, Myrick said.
“The city has never made an offer to an employee like this, and hopefully will never have to again — because what Tony sacrificed was extraordinary,” Myrick said.
The agreement calls for Ithaca to pay for Augustine’s healthcare coverage for 20 years, including for any health issues not related to the shooting.
Negotiated by the city, Augustine and the IPD police union, the proposed healthcare package now heads to the city’s Common Council for approval.
“Paying for somebody’s health insurance for the next 20 years is a huge, huge investment – and I hope Council will agree that it’s an appropriate one,” Myrick said.
Myrick said that Augustine has accepted the retirement package and agreement. It was made public as part of the agenda for the Common Council’s administration committee.
Augustine will also receive a state pension as if he had served 20 years as an Ithaca police officer.
A night on West Hill
Augustine suffered a stroke and neurological damage after he was shot chasing Jamel Booker near the West Village Apartments.
On Oct. 11, 2012, Augustine was called on a report of a stolen vehicle. He drove before getting out of his car and chasing Booker on foot, Taser drawn.
The bullet entered Augustine’s “upper left chest,” reports at the time said, finding a way around Augustine’s bulletproof vest.
Booker was eventually arrested and charged with, among other offenses, aggravated assault of a police officer. Booker was sentenced in June 2013 to 25 years in prison, according to CNY Central.
Augustine was flown via helicopter to a hospital and went into emergency surgery after the shooting. Officer Augustine, who the Ithaca Voice was unable to reach for comment Wednesday for this story, told The Ithaca Journal in the fall about a conversation he had with a neurologist in Syracuse:
“He told me, ‘It’s amazing that you’re here talking the way you are. … If it would have moved up like a half an inch you would have trouble eating and moving. … If it had moved up to the right a little bit, to that dark section,’ he’s like ‘You’d a died.’ He goes, ‘If I had a stroke, I would pray to be you.’”
Augustine also told The Journal that he “believes he could return to work, but he’s been told that the city fears that his diminished eyesight, a blank spot in the lower-left corner of his field of vision, could present a liability.”
An end nobody wanted — but also a beginning
Mayor Myrick said it was difficult for the city to figure out how to proceed with the possibility of reintroducing Augustine to the police force after the officer began to recover.
“This was something we’ve never done before and a situation we’ve never found ourselves in,” Myrick said. “But I think it was a friendly negotiation: We knew from the start that we wanted to take care of Tony.”
City Hall officials wanted Augustine to be able to return to duty, says Common Council member Deborah Mohlenhoff, chair of the committee that will be discussing the retirement package tonight.
“I’m extremely grateful to the service Officer Augustine has provided to the city and I can’t imagine what his family has had to go through,” she said.
“It’s got to be very tough, and no one wants this to end this way. We would have loved him to (continue) as an officer.”
Myrick added that he plans to continue to work with Officer Augustine — even after his retirement from IPD is official.
“There’s a sense of closure here, but also a sense of continuation. I’ve gotten to know Tony and his wife Rhonda really well in the last couple of years, and they … have been committed to making this a good community and the Ithaca Police Department a better one,” Myrick said.
“I know that though we’re moving toward Tony’s retirement, this isn’t the last time we’ll be working together.”