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Injured Aberdeen police officer finds work with Harford Sheriff's Office

Former Aberdeen Police Officer Jason Easton, who was shot in the face nearly two years ago and forced to retire from the agency, is now working as a security clerk for the Harford County Sheriff's Office.
Former Aberdeen Police Officer Jason Easton, who was shot in the face nearly two years ago and forced to retire from the agency, is now working as a security clerk for the Harford County Sheriff's Office. (MATT BUTTON/THE AEGIS / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Nearly two years after Aberdeen Police Department Officer Jason Easton was shot in the face responding to a call, he and his family are just now beginning to move past the incident.

Easton started working in early October for the Harford County Sheriff’s Office, around the same time his appeal with regard to worker’s compensation and medical retirement were worked out, Easton said Tuesday.

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“As far as us as family, it helps us get back to a normal, which will help them move on and try to put this behind us, and move on to the possibilities life has for us,” Easton, 34, said.

The 10-year veteran of the Aberdeen Police Department was shot on Dec. 4, 2015 while investigating a resident's complaint about a threat at the rear of the resident's home on Ohio Court.

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Easton was shot in the face with bird pellets from a shotgun blast by Tyler Testerman, now 23, of Havre de Grace. Testerman and his accomplice, 28-year-old Scott Lawrence, of Abingdon, were arrested the same day. Both pleaded guilty for their parts in the shooting.

Lawrence was sentenced to 25 years in prison and five years' probation, with the prison time suspended. Testerman was sentenced to a combined 78 years in prison, although he will serve a maximum of 35 years after the remaining years were suspended. He is serving his sentence in Jessup.

The shooting left Easton legally blind in one eye. He was cleared by doctors to return to work in any position other than patrol. Because of those limitations, the Aberdeen Police Department determined if he couldn’t do the entire job, he couldn’t return to work.

Over a period of several months, Easton had several hearings with regard to his worker’s compensation, possible retirement from Aberdeen Police Department and what benefits he would receive, he said.

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For the most part, that has been worked out. Easton is taking a medical retirement from APD. His retirement and worker’s compensation combined will amount to two-thirds of his salary as a police officer, he said.

Easton now works as a security clerk at the sheriff’s office’s Southern Precinct. He works 2:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. and is paid $17.22 an hour, according to Cristie Kahler, spokesperson for the sheriff’s office.

Aberdeen Police Officer Jason Easton hasn't gotten a paycheck in more than four months — not since the department determined he could not return to the job he

He works at the front desk, fielding phone calls and inquiries from people who walk into the precinct. He takes some reports over the phone and files civil paperwork, he said.

He said he likes the job and is grateful for the opportunity. His experience as a patrol officer serves him in his new job to direct people where they need to go, he said.

“It’s definitely fun and enjoyable. I work for a great group of people, so I love working for the sheriff’s office,” Easton said.

“When a police officer, one of our brothers in blue, suffers such a career-ending injury while serving his community, his entire law enforcement family feels his pain,” Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler said of Easton.

After taking a medical retirement from APD, Easton asked about opportunities with the sheriff’s office, Gahler said. There was a vacancy in a security position; and after completing all necessary background and pre-employment requirements, Easton was offered the position.

“As sheriff, I was glad we were able to bring Jason on board at the HCSO, where he can continue to serve the community he loves,” Gahler said.

For Easton, he is contented being back at work.

“One … stress point is to make sure I can provide for my family,”he said. “Being back at work, even though I don’t get paid the same rate, it makes you have a sense of worth, to go to work, do your job and contribute to the wealth of your family.”

Being at the job is also helping move past the injury, he said.

“I’m no longer being held back by it and it’s having less of an effect on my family,” Easton said.

Aberdeen Police Officer Jason Easton, who was shot and injured last December, has had an outpouring of support for him and his family as he recovers from a wound to his eye. He is optimistic about returning to the force if he regains full sight in his left eye.

His children, ages 11, 8, 4 and 8 months, however, have been in counseling since the shooting, Sandi Easton said. They wanted to see where their dad would be working.

“It made them feel better to know I’d be sitting at a desk behind bullet-resistant glass,” Easton said.

The Sheriff’s Office holds a number of other opportunities for Easton. While he can’t be on the roads as a patrol deputy, one possibility is a courthouse deputy. And as a civilian, he could also do background investigations or work in records.

“There’s a whole wide range of civilian positions that could be available,” he said.

He can see himself retiring from the agency one day.

“They definitely showed my family support when we in a tough spot, ” Easton said. “It says a lot about not only the agency but the men and women who work for the agency. You can’t find that everywhere.”

In the wake of Easton’s wounding and recovery, he and his wife have encountered what they say are “deficiencies” in the system. While her husband has been recovering and handling his worker’s compensation and retirement cases, Sandi Easton has been taking a broader approach.

“My goal is to ensure every agency is required to have some type of medical retirement for their officers,” Sandi Easton said.

That’s not the case for all agencies in Harford, she said, and for those officers who can’t come back to work are “effectively terminated.”

“We want to make sure no one can lose their job by going to work and doing their job,” she said. “Somehow I feel like that’s not really fair.”

Sandi Easton has been working with state delegates and senators to develop legislation that would make medical retirement a requirement. She’s also working with nonprofit agencies at the federal level.

In addition to medical retirement, Sandi Easton wants to make sure injured officers get the psychological support they need.

“One of my biggest complaints, if I had any, was that Jason was never required or offered any psychological assistance,” Sandi Easton said. “He was fine, but in so many cases people are not fine.”

The second anniversary of the shooting is approaching. Both Jason and Sandi know the memories of the day will return and that they’ll never fully go away. But they’re working on it.

“I’m very excited for Jason’s new job and the possibilities it has for our family going forward. We’re very ready to move on and close this chapter of our lives and get back to whatever we can call normal,” she said. “It’s just a relief not to deal with it all. I feel like we can finally move on and not have to relive that day all over again.”

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