New vehicle puts injured IMPD officer on road to recovery

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – An Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer got a new car from the city on Friday, marking a turning point in the life of Officer Santos Cortez.

Nearly two years ago, Officer Cortez was thrown from his squad car and paralyzed while working traffic patrol in his southwest side district. A drunk driver was arrested and convicted for causing the crash.

His new car makes it possible for Officer Cortez to move forward in the goal he set right after he was hurt–get back on the beat.

It was a special moment for IMPD Officer Santos Cortez. Public Safety Director Troy Riggs handed the keys to him.

“I believe the car has everything you wanted, except the 600 horsepower engine. But we couldn’t make that happen,” he said as the gathered crowd laughed.

It’s not a squad car. But for Officer Cortez it is another sign of his continuing rehabilitation on the long road to recovery that began June 10, 2012. Officer Cortez was answering a call of multiple hit and run crashes, when Jerrel Watkins, a man eventually convicted of drunk driving, smashed into Officer Cortez’s police vehicle. It was pushed into the path of a pickup truck and Officer Cortez was thrown from his vehicle.

WISH-TV showed you his rehabilitation back in March of 2013 as he gained his strength and was learning to drive. Getting behind the wheel requires different skills now. But Officer Cortez is grateful to be able to do it, and this new vehicle, a city owned Ford Flex that is his to drive, is equipped with hand controls for driving and the latest electronic technology.

“I can talk on my phone and I don’t have to have my phone in my hands,” says Officer Cortez.

He works in administration now. But Chief Rick Hite says he brings much more to the job.

“Mostly he’s there with the added strength, the bonus of having a guy who is just positive all the time, about the job and about how important it is to come to work,” says Hite.

Driving to work, from now on.

“I’m very appreciative that my department has stood by me in all of this. And helped me in anyway I can, to get me back into work,” said Officer Cortez.

Officer Cortez says he hopes to eventually work at the shooting range. He says he wants to show new recruits how to protect themselves.

Jerrel Watkins was convicted of drunk driving and sentenced to three years in prison and 180 days of community service. He was released on probation in November of last year.

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