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Peter Kramer / NBC

TODAY   |  November 11, 2013

Cop who claims PTSD since Sandy Hook facing firing

Thomas Bean, one of the first police officers to respond after the fatal Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newton, Conn., that left 26 dead, including 20 children, says that he has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder ever since. Now the town is threatening to fire him. Bean and his attorney speak out on TODAY.

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>> hour with the controversy tied to the sandy hook school shooting in connecticut. 16 newtown police officers missed work because of posttraumatic stress. 11 months later all but one have returned to the job and he says the town is threatening to fire him. we'll talk to that officer in a moment. but first, here's nbc 's craig melvin.

>> reporter: when 20 children and six female staffers were gun downed inside sandy hook elementary, one of the first officers to respond was thomas bean.

>> as the day went on, i saw the most horrible things that i person could ever imagine.

>> reporter: imagines so haunting he says he suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder ever since.

>> i had paranoia. just anxiety. crying. there was times where you couldn't breathe.

>> it's difficult to work. it's difficult to have relationships. it really interfere with your life.

>> reporter: while more than a dozen other officers also missed time due to pts symptoms, the 12 year veteran is the only one yet to return. now the police department is thinking of firing him. he received a letter notifying him that termination of your employment with the newtown police department is warranted and will be my recommendation to the newtown police commission. the town's long-term disability coverage kovrs only two years of payments to bean after which the town itself would have to pay him, potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars. he would not talk about the case telling nbc news, we cannot comment on this matter. i hope you understand. an attorney for the police union says his case is just the tip of the iceberg .

>> he's not the last. he's the first. there's going to be more.

>> reporter: for today craig melvin, nbc news, new york.

>> officer thomas bean is with us exclusively along with president of the newtown police union and his attorney eric brown . good morning to all of you gentlemen.

>> good morning.

>> tom, you were on the scene that horrible morning. what you saw is unspeakable. how has it affected your life? what did you go through in the days and months that followed?

>> well, immediately after you can't -- i can't describe the overwhelming senses of emotions that i had. that night i drank a lot. the next day i wanted to cut myself because i just felt so numb. a friend of mine hooked me up, she is a therapist, tracked me down. and got me into therapy. got me in to see a psychiatrist and that helped some. but i still can't -- wasn't able to sleep. my wife tells me i was crying in my sleep . i would have unexplained outbursts. flash backs. there would be times when i would be talking to you right now and have a video of everything i saw playing right there.

>> your doctor told you ptsd and your doctor told you cannot return to work as an officer; is that right?

>> that's correct.

>> let me turn to your scott. as i understand it, the city -- the contract with the police officers entitles officer who is have a disability to be paid until they're eligible for retirement which in tom's case would be about 12 years or so but the city's insurance only covers two years. does that mean the city is on the hook for the time that isn't covered by their insurance?

>> yes, that's what we're looking for them to live up to.

>> but they have refused to do so? on what grounds?

>> they're looking to terminate tom instead.

>> what grounds?

>> because he hasn't returned to work.

>> let me bring you into this. there was an august letter from the police chief to your client and he said he failed to respond to three officers, retirement, disability retirement, and resignation. what do you say to that?

>> well, if he were to take a retirement, now would be a far reduced retirement and it wouldn't be enough to even pay a small amount of bills. he's not eligible for disability retirement and the town knows that and resignation would essentially leave him financially destitute. so there were three very bad options and the fourth option, which is the one that the town should be pursuing, is to provide him with the disability benefit until his retirement date just like they agreed to in the coelellective bargaining agreement.

>> what are you planning to do? is there other work you are planning to do?

>> i don't know. i'm hoping that the town is going to keep a promise that they made to us. they promised us all of us. all of the police officers that if we do our jobs and something happens, they're going to take care of us. and they're not holding up to their word. that's all we want them to do. for myself and for anybody else that this is going to happen to.

>> do you think there are other officers that have returned to work who maybe would like to file these disability claims but are afraid to?

>> i believe so. i believe that some of them are afraid of what is going on and so now they can't take care of themselves because they're too worried about the financial which is a huge burden. and obviously adds additional stress to myself and to my family.

>> well, officer, thank you for being here and sharing your story. we appreciate it as