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Gatz v. Board of Trustees of Village of Maywood Police Pension Fund

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Fifth Division

September 20, 2019

TANGEL AGATZ, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE VILLAGE OF MAYWOOD POLICE PENSION FUND, Defendant-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 18 CH 8419 Honorable Michael T. Mullen, Judge, Presiding.

          PRESIDING JUSTICE HOFFMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Rochford and Delort concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          HOFFMAN PRESIDING JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 The plaintiff, Tangela Gatz, appeals from a judgment of the circuit court of Cook County, which confirmed a decision of the Board of Trustees of the Maywood Police Pension Fund (the Board), denying her application for a surviving spouse's pension pursuant to section 3-112(e) of the Illinois Pension Code (Code)(40 ILCS 5/3-112(e) (West 2016)), based on the death of her husband, Ryan Gatz. (hereinafter referred to as Ryan), a police officer in the employ of the Village of Maywood. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the judgment of the circuit court.

         ¶ 2 Ryan was a member of the Maywood Police Department, having been appointed as a probationary officer on March 19, 2009, and receiving his regular appointment on March 19, 2010. The plaintiff alleged that Ryan died as the result of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which he developed after an officer-involved shooting on October 25, 2014. The facts of this case are, in relevant part, undisputed. The following factual recitation is taken from the evidence adduced at the hearings on the plaintiffs pension application held before the Board on August 25, 2017 and March 27, 2018.

         ¶ 3 Certain facts noted by the Board relating to Ryan's medical treatment prior to the October 25, 2014 incident, are relevant to the resolution of this appeal. On November 8, 2004, Ryan was treated at Rush Oak Park Hospital for "severe, acute anxiety." On December 17, 2004, following an incident where Ryan was at home acting unusual while in possession of a firearm, he was taken to Gottlieb Hospital and admitted to the psychiatric ward. The police report of the incident states that Ryan was having problems with narcotics and had consumed numerous prescription drugs and drank nail polish remover. As a result, Ryan was placed on administrative leave from his position with the Cook County Sheriff.

         ¶ 4 The plaintiff testified that she first met Ryan in the fall of 2013. According to the plaintiff, when she first met him, Ryan admitted to being a recovering addict. Over the next six months, the plaintiff never saw Ryan drink alcohol, and the only medication he used was for his blood pressure. She stated that Ryan attended a weekly Alcoholics Anonymous meeting on Friday evenings. Ryan and the plaintiff were married on February 14, 2014. The plaintiff testified that, from the time of their marriage until October 2014, Ryan did not consume alcohol, and he only took his blood pressure medication.

         ¶ 5 According to police reports, on October 25, 2014, Ryan and Officer Whitlock attempted to apprehend a suspected narcotics offender. Officer Whitlock observed the suspect reach for his waistband and saw a gun. When the suspect pointed the gun at Officer Whitlock, the officer fired several shots, striking the suspect. The report states that Ryan exited his vehicle after hearing the gunshots. While Ryan and Officer Whitlock were standing on the sidewalk, a car drove toward them. They responded by firing at the car, which sped off. The suspect was transported by ambulance to a hospital where he died. Ryan and Officer Whitlock were taken in a separate ambulance to Loyola Hospital's emergency room. According to the hospital records, Ryan was diagnosed with unspecified chest pain and released.

         ¶ 6 The following day, Ryan was examined at Loyola's immediate care facility. The records of that visit state that he complained of chest pains, palpitations, insomnia, and anxiety. He reported feeling stressed and unable to sleep; "[f]eels like he may be having anxiety and panic which he has had in the past." Ryan was given anti-anxiety medication and released.

         ¶ 7 On November 10, 2014, Ryan sought treatment with Dennis Delfosse, LCPC, who diagnosed him with "acute stress reaction." Delfosse's case review states: "Post shooting evaluation. Incident on 24 Oct. off work until further notice *** Anxiety, tension and temper problems at home *** sleep impaired ***some images and flashbacks." A case review dated December 11, 2014, states: "Good progress *** Believes he is ready for work *** Some sleep difficulty but minimal."

         ¶ 8 On October 13, 2015, Ryan was seen by Dr. Gigante for blood pressure issues. In his report of that visit, Dr. Gigante wrote: "PT diagnosed recently with HTN and has HX of chronic general anxiety disorder which is well controlled with Klonopin."

         ¶ 9 In a case review dated October 15, 2015, Delflosse noted that Ryan "reports he has a psychiatrist who will now follow him with EMDR TX and medication MGT *** Will discontinue SVCS here."

         ¶ 10 On October 19, 2015, Ryan was admitted to Advocate Lutheran General Hospital. The record of that admission states: "psychiatric stabilization and detox management from the various medications he has been taking for the past year. Problems for him began on 10/24/2014, when there was a death of a suspect in which he was involved as a Maywood police officer." On October 23, 2015, Ryan was evaluated by Dr. Cynthia Gordon of Advocate's behavioral health group. In her assessment, Dr. Gordon noted: "Depression *** Panic disorder without agoraphobia *** Post-traumatic stress disorder chronic." She also noted that Ryan denied, among other thoughts, suicidal ideation, suicidal intent, and suicide plans.

         ¶ 11 Ryan was treated by Dr. Diane Heidmann at the Rehab Institute of Chicago for pain management associated with two torn rotator cuffs. On July 7, 2016, Dr. Heidmann prescribed, among other drugs: hydorcodone for pain, one tablet of which was to be taken every 4 hours as needed. In her report of that visit, Dr. Heidmann recorded that Ryan had been seeing Dr. Madison a pain specialist and that he had been prescribed hydromorphone. She also noted that Ryan was "[u]nder care of a psychiatrist for PTSD. He is currently on disability. Used to work as a police officer. His symptoms started after he shot someone." The ...


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