INDIANAPOLIS - An officer who was paralyzed in the line of duty was presented with a new, customized vehicle Friday.
When Santos Cortez was hit by a drunken driver, his life changed forever. He was responding to a call of an impaired driver in June 2012 when a drunken driver plowed into his patrol car.
"I was fortunate enough to stay healthy enough and stay strong enough to fight through it and come back and I'm going to do everything I can to continue to stay on this department and work for them," Cortez said about the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.
The city’s director of public safety and police chief presented Cortez with the new vehicle outside the city-county building.
"Santos is a great ambassador for us, he is a dedicated officer. He got injured while he was working for the citizens of this community and his commitment to this community didn't end with his accident," Director of Public Safety Troy Riggs said.
Cortez said the accident still haunts him, and he now advocates for tougher laws against people convicted of impaired driving.
"I would like to see drunk driving or intoxicated driving be increased to a felony, right now it's a misdemeanor and your second time it's a felony. I think it needs to be a felony first offense," Cortez said.
In his case, Jerrel Watkins received a three-year sentence.
"You really didn't do any time for changing my life and you got to walk out of jail, I unfortunately don't get to walk out of anywhere," Cortez said.
Cortez said he is grateful for the new vehicle that is customized for his disability.
"I just wish it was a squad car again, you know, I wish I could be back out there with my brothers and sisters, you know, chasing the bad guys down," he said.
Cortez said even though he can’t be back out in his patrol car, he still plans on helping IMPD in other ways.
Follow Drew Smith on Twitter: @drewsmith1
City could consider public's use of Narcan
Indianapolis police and ambulance crews have reported success in dispensing Narcan to people who overdose on heroin.
Dad dies days after son killed in scooter crash
A 7-year-old boy and his father died after a car hit the motor scooter that they were riding Tuesday evening.
Ind. family sues real estate agent, former owner
A family forced to flee their home over a hidden danger is taking legal action.
Man fatally shot on city's northeast side
Police were investigating after a 29-year-old man was fatally shot on the city's northeast side Thursday evening.
Teens attack woman in downtown parking lot
Indianapolis police were searching for five teens accused of attacking a woman while wearing masks.
911 calls tell story of public heroin use
Indianapolis is seeing roughly three heroin overdoses each day, but they're not confined just to dark alleys as Hollywood would have you believe.