Former homicide detective Chris Palombi said his PTSD shouldn’t have gotten him fired

A former LMPD homicide detective accused of threatening to kill his co-workers is planning to tell a merit board he wants a job with the department back.
Published: Aug. 3, 2022 at 7:45 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - A former LMPD homicide detective accused of threatening to kill his co-workers is planning to tell a merit board he wants a job with the department back.

Chris Palombi said the department fails its officers when it comes to their mental health, and that he shouldn’t have been fired because of his PTSD.

“You just sit there and think, man, how could that happen to me?” Palombi said in an exclusive Troubleshooter interview.

Chris Palombi worked in LMPD’s Homicide Unit. He said that last summer, he started noticing something wasn’t right. He had irrational thoughts, anxiety and paranoia.

He added the stress and trauma from his gruesome job and his experience as a combat medic overseas started adding up. He realized he was spiraling.

He said he was diagnosed with PTSD and got medication from Veterans Affairs. He said the meds sometimes made things worse while the proper kind or dose was figured out

He described carrying trauma from being at war as a combat medic, to being shot at during the riots of 2020, for which he said officers did not get mental health treatment for.

Then there was working in the Homicide Unit, which required long work hours and an on-call schedule with little or no sleep. He described seeing one body after another and then dealing with the anguish and pain of their families.

“It’s real horrific stuff,” he said. “Stuff you only see in movies.”

Palombi said he was anxious, depressed and paranoid.

“I wouldn’t leave a butter knife on the counter in my kitchen, just thinking, ‘what if my toddler comes down here and picks that thing up and falls on it,’ or something like that.”

Things got so bad that he thought of killing himself.

“I look over at the side of the road and am like, ‘if I just take the wheel and cut it, it’s just like that,’” he remembered. “It’s quick, it’s violent, I have all this anger, I have all this noise up here, and I could just be done. So I thought, ‘How fast can I get my car?’”

He said he told the department about his PTSD as a cry for help, but claimed his job was unrelenting.

With a shortage of officers, and an unclear understanding of the symptoms of PTSD from the department, he was cleared to go back to work by LMPD’s counselor.

That, he said, even surprised him.

“I should have been off work indefinitely, until I went through a thorough mental health evaluation,” Palombi said. “People who are actually trained to do this.”

LMPD argued against some of his claims during merit board hearings.

The department contended they did offer him help from outside sources, like the VA, and that they tried to work with him in his unit.

Chief Erika Shields wrote in a termination document that he’d made threats against other officers’ lives.

They’ve also stated that his performance at work wasn’t up to the standards for the families of the victims in his cases.

Palombi states he never threatened anyone, or wrote a kill list. He is now asking the department for proof.

“There was never, under any circumstances, a kill list or threats to anyone’s lives,” he said.

The department also referred him to treatment for PTSD in California. They also sought help from the Louisville Metro Police Foundation for funds.

But, besides that, LMPD’s mental health resources are close to none, Palombi and several officers told us during the course of this investigation.

The department does have a certified counselor, and there is a peer support team.

However, Palombi states neither of those were the right people to deal with some with his symptoms. He believes they only made things worse.

When he came back from the treatment in California, he was fired.

“I can sit here and I can admit to my faults and the things that I did, and my role that I played in this, I just wish that the other party would do the same,” Palombi said.

Palombi is now asking for a desk job at LMPD until he can explore a medical retirement, something he said the Army has already applied.

He added he credits the center in California for saving his life and providing him “real treatment” for PTSD and said he is doing much better.

He believes he still has a lot to offer the community he served in some capacity. He is asking for the opportunity to prove that.

His merit board hearing will resume Thursday morning.

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WAVE — Louisville and Southern Indiana's NBC affiliate. Follow us on Twitter & Instagram @wave3news.(WAVE)

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