An eastern Pennsylvania police officer fired after mistakenly killing a fellow officer during a shootout nearly a decade ago will be eligible for a $36,000 annual pension in June, according to records reviewed by a newspaper.
Reading's mayor and police chief say 39-year-old James Palange qualifies for the pension because he remained on paid suspension for six years while appealing his termination, The Reading Eagle said. He had 13 years on the force, counting the suspension time, more than the dozen needed to be vested.
Mayor Vaughn Spencer and Chief William Heim both declined to say what took so long, saying it was a personnel matter.
In June 2004, three undercover officers were trying to arrest Andrew Smith, 24, in connection with an earlier shooting. A shootout began, and Palange pulled up on what he said appeared to him to be rival gangs firing at each other. He opened fire, and one bullet ricocheted and killed officer Michael Wise II, 32, of Myerstown, who was in the car.
Palange was fired but appealed, saying he didn't know undercover officers were in the area. He took his dismissal to arbitration and received his salary and benefits during the appeal that dragged on until 2011.
Haim said the pension stemmed not from arbitration but from a June 2011 settlement following negotiations between the city and the Fraternal Order of Police. Neither the police union nor Palange, who has since taken a job as an officer in nearby Mohnton, were available for comment.
Smith, convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the shooting in December 2005, was sentenced to 13 to 27 years in prison.
A suit filed by Wise's widow, Denise, against the city was settled the following year for $1.75 million.