Retired police officer says 'brother in blue' code likely to blame for George Floyd's death.

Omar Delgado, a first responder at the Pulse nightclub mass shooting in 2016, still grapples with the nightmare. As shots were fired then, Delgado quickly moved bloodied victims outside. As he took cover, the firing continued. There were lifeless bodies everywhere. One of the survivors he helped was Angel Colon, who was shot six times. The two made headlines everywhere. I even interviewed them back then.

But despite Delgado's heroic actions, he was fired from the Eatonville, Florida police force the following year after developing post-traumatic stress disorder from the massacre—six months before his vested pension. He filed a lawsuit against the department, and he was eventually granted disability retirement, which was 42% of his $38,500 salary. Nowadays, former officer Delgado can't believe what our world has come to. In some ways, he says, things have become progressively worse.



Protesters are breaking windows, igniting fires and vandalizing properties in Minneapolis over the killing of George Floyd, who is a black man. A video surfaced of him struggling to breathe while the knee of a white police officer was pressed against his neck. You can hear Floyd repeating "I can't breathe," also voicing that he's about to die. Finally, when the officer released pressure, you can see Floyd's limp body on the pavement. He was pronounced dead at the hospital. "It's horrific. He couldn't breathe. It's not like he was tugging or fighting. It was extremely unnecessary," says Delgado. "My heart goes out to the family and his friends. To see that situation, it's just really, really bad."

Delgado wants people to know that not all officers are like Derek Chauvin. He believes those four officers that day put a bad name to the badge. "As a former police officer, and I'm Puerto Rican, it's frustrating and it's sad. But I wish people would not think every officer is the same way," he says. "I know there are officers out there right now who are thinking, 'I have to get up, I have to put this uniform on. I have to serve and protect, but you know what? I'm going to get shit for it because of them.'"


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Delgado mentions most things had to do with race when he was an officer. When they would call in, the first thing asked was the ethnicity of the driver. "I don't know why they were doing that. They always wanted to know. But why? I never understood," he says. "It really didn't matter what race they were."

During training, Delgado was always taught to subdue and contain the suspect. Once the person was in cuffs, the officer gauges if the individual is a threat. Sometimes they'll kick or spit, but Delgado doesn't believe there is ever a time an officer should use brutal force if a suspect is contained. "In my opinion, what should that officer have done? Once [Floyd] was on the ground and already contained, the officer should have picked him up and put him in the car. He shouldn't have been on him like that. It's absurd."

But Delgado feels training only goes so far. "We are in 2020 and I don't think it will ever get better. It hasn't happened yet. There will always be that persona of police brutality or injustice or something you think an officer should have done it differently. I still would love to know what [Chauvin] was thinking that moment. It doesn't make sense. And sadly, the man lost his life."
As for the other officers, Delgado thinks the "brother in blue code" may have applied here. "Those three other officers did not come to their senses and say, 'Enough is enough.' "There is this thing where they have the officer's back no matter what. But look what happened. They lost their jobs. They could have said, 'Stop, enough,' he says. "They didn't. It's terrible."

He admits that the brother in blue code of always having the back of another officer is a real thing, but common sense is more important. "Some officers don't have it. It doesn't look good. Those are the ones who shouldn't be officers," he says. "There was no need to be the tough guy, the macho man. The officer probably thought if he backed down, he would show weakness. Having weakness out on the streets as an officer is bad. But they should have shown brotherly love and professionalism. How many poor black people are treated like that on a daily basis? How many poor white people are treated like that? It happens a lot. This should be an eye opener."

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After the 2012 Trayvon Martin case, where an unarmed, black 17- year-old was shot and killed in Sanford, Florida, Delgado believes that's when police officers got a really bad reputation. The ensuing trial in 2013 acquitted George Zimmerman of second degree murder, which sparked national debate around gun violence and racism. "All these officers were then beating up black people. I couldn't believe it," says Delgado. But then the Pulse shooting occurred, he says, and people looked at the officers as heroes, and put them in a better light. Now, he believes, things have come full circle. "But that doesn't mean people should be looting, trashing and destroying other people's property," he says. "Why are they doing it? They're upset. They should be. I get it. But why damage other people's property that has nothing to do with it? I don't think that's the right way to voice an opinion."

Delgado isn't shy to voice his own opinions either. "It shouldn't be about race, but it's hard to paint that picture when you see what you see. But right away, everyone wants to put a title on racism," says Delgado. "Yes, it is a white officer and a black victim, but that's what makes it look like race. But if it's the opposite, do they ever smash out the race card? Are they in a hurry to pull out the race card if it was a black officer and a white victim. Would they? If it was hispanic, or asian, or another race? To me, it's a crime on an individual and a person."

Delgado was also labeled as a racist while he was an officer in his predominantly black town in Eatonville. "I've never been somebody who plays the race card. My grandfather was blacker than black. My mom is whiter than white. I never saw color. If you look at the history of Puerto Ricans, we are mixed with a whole bunch of people and race. People used to say, 'You're racist.' And I'd say, 'Really? I'm Puerto Rican.' Then I was fine," he says.

But people were quick to put labels on him, telling him that he was racial profiling. "I would say, 'Are you serious?' The whole town is almost black!'" he quips." Second of all, if I pulled that vehicle over, I sometimes can't tell who is even driving, since the windows are tinted. I pull over a vehicle at a high rate of speed. People are quick to lash out. But it doesn't mean I'm going to treat anyone differently. I'm going to treat everyone with the respect they deserve."

The best word to describe how Delgado is feeling lately is numb."I know how bad the world is through my own experience, witnessing all of it first hand. What gets me is that people are not learning from what's going on. You would think after all these incidents that have been happening, there would be more training to officers."

But the real question is how do things change?

"There are a lot of black chiefs of police out there. Do you start off at the top and give them more jobs? I don't know if officer [Chauvin] acted that way because [Floyd] was black. What I do know is the way that officer acted was totally unacceptable. He was wrong at every level," he says.

Delgado believes officers aren't protecting only whites or only blacks. They are protecting the community. When things like this happen, he realizes that the public has a difficult time trusting police again. "That is the most challenging part. You respect the profession because you know what they are there for, but when the profession fails you, that is a tough pill to swallow. I don't have all the answers, but I do know things need to change."

Since his first hit single "Keep Your Head Up" in 2011, award-winning multi-platinum recording artist Andy Grammer has made a name for himself as the king of the feel-good anthem. From "Good to Be Alive (Hallelujah)" to "Honey, I'm Good" to "Back Home" and more, his positive, upbeat songs have blared on beaches and at backyard barbecues every summer.

So what does a singer who loves to perform in front of live audiences and is known for uplifting music do during an unexpectedly challenging year of global pandemic lockdown?

He goes inward.

Grammer told Upworthy that losing the ability to perform during the pandemic forced him to look at where his self-worth came from. "I thought I would have scored better, to be honest," he says. "Like, 'Oh, I get it from all the important, right places!' And then it's taken all away in one moment, and you're like, 'Oh, nope, I was getting a lot from that.'

"It's kind of cool to break all the way down and then hopefully put myself back together in a way that's a little more solid," he says.

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Since his first hit single "Keep Your Head Up" in 2011, award-winning multi-platinum recording artist Andy Grammer has made a name for himself as the king of the feel-good anthem. From "Good to Be Alive (Hallelujah)" to "Honey, I'm Good" to "Back Home" and more, his positive, upbeat songs have blared on beaches and at backyard barbecues every summer.

So what does a singer who loves to perform in front of live audiences and is known for uplifting music do during an unexpectedly challenging year of global pandemic lockdown?

He goes inward.

Grammer told Upworthy that losing the ability to perform during the pandemic forced him to look at where his self-worth came from. "I thought I would have scored better, to be honest," he says. "Like, 'Oh, I get it from all the important, right places!' And then it's taken all away in one moment, and you're like, 'Oh, nope, I was getting a lot from that.'

"It's kind of cool to break all the way down and then hopefully put myself back together in a way that's a little more solid," he says.

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Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."