Orange County officials voted this week to allow deputies to file workers’ compensation claims related to any injuries suffered during the Las Vegas mass shooting in 2017.
Initially, four deputies’ claims were denied because California and local law limited law enforcement workers’ compensation claims to on- and off-duty incidents within the state.
The Tuesday vote extends to county law enforcement officers who protect civilians or assist local first responders in future domestic terrorism incidents.
Several off-duty officers from Southern California were attending the Route 91 Harvest festival on Oct. 1, 2017, when a gunman fired on the crowd from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay, killing 58 people and injuring hundreds more.
Some were shot while leading people to safety.
A bill from Assemblyman Tom Daly, D-Anaheim, that passed in 2018 and took effect Jan. 1 clarified previous law to state that California peace officers injured off-duty while responding to out-of-state crimes and life-threatening emergencies can collect public injury benefits.
“The door was closed. Our officers were shut out because the statute was vague,” said Tom Dominguez, president of the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, which sponsored the bill.
“Now, the door’s been open, and we’ll go into the workers’ compensation system. These peace officers will be made whole.”
The new policy’s cost to county taxpayers will depend on how many claims are filed and what benefits are awarded.
The bill is permissive, meaning each municipality or county or state agency has to adopt it for it to take effect, Dominguez said.
As far as he knows, Orange County is the first to do so in California. About 3,000 deputies are affected.
He said two deputies who were shot, Marine Corps and Afghanistan War veteran Joe Owen and Mark Seamans, are back on duty and in good spirits.
Seamans helped shield others from gunfire and move people to safety, injuring his leg in the process.
Owen was applying pressure on a victim’s bullet wound and dragging that person to safety when he was shot in the abdomen and thigh.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department gave both men the Purple Heart, along with the Medal of Courage, for their bravery.
“These people have lives, they have families, they have children, they have careers and … it’s unfair to them to put that doubt into their minds when they’re out of the state and an act of domestic terrorism occurs,” Dominguez said.
“They went into it without a second thought and went into life-saving mode.”
Dominguez said it’s a rewarding outcome, as this decision comes so close to the two-year anniversary of the shooting.
“But it pales in comparison to the grief that the families had to endure since this tragedy occurred,” he said. “The victims are spread out all over the place, and it had impact all over the state. This thing hit home.”