City gives customized vehicle to officer paralyzed in line of duty

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

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