- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
A jury trial looms next month as St. Mary’s government contests a worker’s compensation award to a sheriff’s deputy, who filed a claim of a post-traumatic stress disorder after shooting and killing a man two years ago in Wildewood.
Cpl. Michael George’s testimony at a hearing last year on his claim, which led to an award for four months of lost wages and medical expenses, included his firsthand account of the September 2012 confrontation that left Stephen Robert Wycoff dead.
George did go back to work two months after the shooting, he testified, until his police dog bit him early last year, and he asked for some time off amid a lingering stomach ailment. He also was troubled about his response to a minor vehicle accident.
“I would find myself distancing away from the people involved [in] the accident, ... constantly watching them, you know, [as if] they were going to pull out a gun,” George testified last June at the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission hearing, according to a transcript. “It was almost like your first day out of [the police] academy. And in the academy, they teach you [that] everyone has a gun and everybody is going to come out and shoot you. And being on the road for over 10 years now, my mindset wasn’t like that prior to the shooting. But coming back to it, it was a fear.”
He added, according to the transcript, “Ever since being a child, this is all I wanted to do. I never thought in a million years that as a direct result of a shooting, [that it] would have such an impact on my life and layers of effects.”
George testified last year that he did not want to return to law enforcement work, the transcript states, and Sheriff Tim Cameron (R) said this week that George is not back on regular duty.
“He’s on leave,” Cameron said. “It would be considered sick leave.”
George’s worker’s compensation claim from March of last year states that he developed a post-traumatic stress disorder from the shooting, and a psychiatric independent medical evaluation report from the following month states that he told a doctor, “Once there is a shooting, you aren’t just a cop that shot someone, you are a suspect in a murder investigation.”
St. Mary’s County’s state’s attorney determined shortly after the shooting that George had “no choice” but to fire the gunshots that killed Wycoff, and court filings state that a doctor cleared George to return to work in early November 2012. The sheriff’s office also conducted investigations of the matter.
George, 28, testified at last year’s Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission hearing, the transcript states, that he and Cpl. William Rishel responded early on the morning of Sept. 29, 2012, to Sugar Maple Court in Wildewood, where someone told the officers that he’d seen a man running in the parking lot, setting things on fire and threatening “to kill all the Americans.”
George testified, according to the transcript, that Wycoff approached from a stairwell to a walkway bridge where the officers were standing, cursed at them and began punching them, even after he had been doused in the face with pepper spray.
“I had fallen to the ground. He was punching Corporal Rishel and trying to push him over the edge of the bridge,” George testified, according to the transcript, adding that he braced himself against a wall as the pepper spray also affected him. “I pulled out my issue firearm, ... he hit my gun and I yelled ‘gun’ as loud as I could.”
George testified that he fired three shots, and “there was a massive pool of blood,” according to the transcript. “I looked down, and I was just covered in blood.”
Wycoff was described in an obituary as a 38-year-old decorated Army veteran and active church member. A brother-in-law said he suffered from mental illness, and that the unarmed man’s actions did not warrant “the death penalty” carried out by the St. Mary’s law officers six months after he and his family moved from Colorado to Maryland.
A psychologist’s report from early 2013, included in court filings, states that at that time, George “doesn’t feel cared for by his sheriff’s department, thinking they are being more [about] risk management than truly concerned about him.”