FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Camdenton, Missouri – November 30, 2011 – Sault Ste. Marie, MI, Police Detective John Weir had served 19 years in law enforcement when he responded to a call involving a mentally deranged man on September 23, 1990. After a long standoff with the individual and while attempting to end that standoff, Detective Weir was stabbed in the eye by the suspect. Weir’s injury left him blind, partially paralyzed and cognitively impaired from the traumatic brain injury (TBI) inflicted by that attack. The man who stabbed Weir was found mentally incompetent and was never prosecuted for the felonious assault.
Weir’s wife, Kathleen, says the months and years following her husband being stabbed were tremendously challenging and difficult. Their children were 12 and 19 at the time. Kathleen became the full-time caregiver for Weir once he was released from the hospital and the rehabilitation facility. “I had to sell our home and move to where John could get the best medical care. We lived on John’s workers’ compensation and I couldn’t work steadily because of John’s level of required care.” Though she provided that care lovingly, she remembers feeling isolated and alone in the years that followed. “No one really ever visited.”
On November 7, 2004, 14 years after the felonious attack, Detective Weir died. A full autopsy was not performed, and the felonious attack was listed only as a “contributing factor” to his death.
The original application for federal death benefits for the Weir family was denied by the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) Program at the Department of Justice in 2005. Mrs. Weir contacted Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.) and spoke with then Executive Director of C.O.P.S., Suzie Sawyer, asking for assistance with an appeal of the determination. Sawyer agreed to help, knowing the appeal would be a long, difficult process and hundreds of medical records would have to be secured and reviewed for details. The appeal could take years. The plan for the appeal started to fall in place when Sawyer met forensic pathologist and coroner, Dr. Janis Amatuzio of Anoka County, MN. Amatuzio reviewed Weir’s extensive medical records and felt confident that Weir’s death certificate should have cited “homicide” as his cause of death; it simply took Detective Weir 14 years to die from the felonious attack. Amatuzio was willing to testify that the traumatic brain injury (TBI), paralysis, and medications affected all of Weir’s major organs, causing his demise.
C.O.P.S. then put together a team to testify in the Weir appeal hearing with the PSOB Program. The team included Kathleen Weir; Jackie Hollister, Weir’s daughter; Dr. Janis Amatuzio; Mike Grimes, Retired Deputy Chief of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol; and Chief David Mitchell, Esquire, of the Maryland University Police Department. Grimes has prepared PSOB claims for most of the surviving families of Oklahoma fallen officers and Chief Mitchell served as the attorney for Mrs. Weir during the hearing. The hearing was held at the Ingham County Sheriff’s Office in January 2011.
Earlier this month, PSOB announced their decision that the Weir claim would be paid. Their decision honors John Weir’s sacrifice by recognizing that he gave his life in the line-of-duty. Hearing from the PSOB office shortly before Thanksgiving and learning the death benefit claim was approved, Kathleen said, “It finally feels like John has been acknowledged and someone appreciates what he did and how he sacrificed. This will be the first Christmas in a long time that I’ll be able to afford Christmas gifts for our son and daughter and their families. In fact, it will be the first time I’ll feel more comfortable spending any amount of money. I appreciate all that C.O.P.S. has done for me.”
Weir’s daughter, Jackie, wrote in an email to Sawyer, “I wanted to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your hard work and dedication to my parent’s case. I am so relieved…and grateful. I haven’t stopped crying happy tears since I found out!”
Kathleen and Jackie plan to attend the MI C.O.P.S. Christmas event on Sunday, December 4 at the Causeway Bay in Lansing, MI to say thank you to those who have been steadfast in their support of the Weir family since 2004 and to accept the unique support offered through Concerns of Police Survivors.
For more information, contact:
Mariah Hughes , CEO
PO Box 3199
Camdenton, MO 65020
Kathy Cole, Trustee
PO Box 508
DeWitt, MI 48820