Safety and OSHA News

Officer who witnessed chimp attack can’t get workers’ comp

Remember the story from about a year ago in which a chimp tore off the face and hands of a woman? The police officer who shot and killed the raging animal was denied workers’ comp benefits.

Under Connecticut’s workers’ comp law, a police officer can receive benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after facing serious injury or deadly force from another person.

But Stamford Police Officer Frank Chiafari, who suffers from PTSD after the incident, can’t get comp because he was forced to shoot and kill an animal, not a person.

Chiafari responded to the scene where the chimp, Travis, had attacked Charla Nash, ripping her face and hands to pieces.

The officer had opened his squad car door to try to help Nash. The chimp jumped into the car.

In testimony before a state legislative committee, Chiafari described the chimp as “a monster with fangs and blood all over it.” After it jumped in his car, Chiafari said, “He was saying, ‘You’re next.'”

The officer shot and killed the chimp. The City of Stamford denied his workers’ comp claim five days after he filed it.

The city later came to an agreement with the police association to cover Chiafari’s $6,400 out-of-pocket medical expenses.

Chiafari was testifying before the state Labor and Public Employees Committee in support of a bill that would amend workers’ comp law to make officers eligible for benefits related to police shootings of an animal threatening serious injury or death.

The bill has been drafted so that it wouldn’t include instances involving rabid raccoons or when an officer has to shoot a deer that’s been seriously injured in a car crash.

The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities opposes the bill, saying it could create an enormous liability for cities and towns. A statement from the Conference says the present law is reasonable and shouldn’t be changed because of one high-profile case.

Should the law be changed? Let us know what you think in the Comments Box below.

(This isn’t the first workers’ comp case spawned by the chimp attack. See our earlier article here.)

OSHA Reporting & You
Print Friendly

Subscribe Today

Get the latest and greatest safety news and insights delivered to your inbox.

Comments

  1. You mean police officers are sometimes involved in traumatic events?!!! We need to send a message! He should get at least $100 million!

    Of course the law shouldn’t be changed! What part of ‘Protect and Serve’ doesn’t he understand???

  2. Nice compassion, John. I think it should be left to his health care providers. If the officer has suffered PTSD as a result of protecting and serving, he should get the assistance he need. I don’t know whether the law should be changed to emcompass all the what-ifs that could happen, but this level of savagery sounds like it could be out of anyone’s nightmares and not what he was likely trained to handle.

  3. I would rather face a criminal with a gun, than a frenzied animal. This officers life was on the line. Man or beast, when you look death in the face, it can have a serious effect on your life.
    It is not worth a million, but i feel that covering visits to a therapist is not asking to much. Our public servants are already underpaid.
    John, I would like to hear your take after going through a similar event?

  4. gillis61 says:

    I recently read the NYT article on the incident that Officer Chiafiari wnt through. They spoke to him and his family. This “Chimp” was a twon/community fixture and was a part of the community for years (10 to 20? Facts escape me) and so of course it was very traumatic event. It was more than just having to use deadly force on the animal but it was dealing with the resultant savagery ofthe animal on the female victim and being unable to get to her to assist her as well. After reading the whole story – oh yeah, he deserves comp. And to John – yes he swore to protect and serve as do our members of the armed services – for little pay and hardle any respect for the dange they place themselves in. We in turn OWE to care for them for putting them in those areas of danger in the first place.

  5. Do our soldiers have these type of benefits?

  6. gillis61 says:

    Yes I believe throught the VA and military benefits they do have the right to PTSD counseling – paid! As they should!

  7. shannon says:

    It would seem to me that all of this occured in the course of work and that Officer Chiafari was acting in the course of work which in my mind would make it compensable under worker’s compensation. While the wording may indicate person, the violence demonstrated by either a person or in this case an animal forced the officer to respond and the resulting ptsd was due to work. Drop “by another person” and give the officer or anyone else faced with a similar situation the treatment or help needed for performing their job responsibility. The idea of protecting and serving should be commended.

  8. This is such an extraordinary circumstance that I don’t think the lawmakers even conceived of such an event happening when they made the law. It’s interesting that the employer is relying on workers’ comp as the sole remedy for her employee’s brutal injuries, but the police officer, who was also in the middle of things, can’t collect Workers’ Comp when he has a diagnosed case of PTSD.

  9. Obviously a CT cop. NY cops would be pushing each other out of the way for the oppotunity to shoot anything.

    “has to shoot a deer that’s been seriously injured in a car crash” come on now. PTSD for shooting a deer? I would say if an oficer is so “fragial” that the shooting of an animal causes PTSD then they should be a meter maid. Not emotionally strong enough to do the job.

    Whats next, the town dog catcher becomes un nerved due to a barking/snapping dog?

    Life gaurd at summer camp afraid of being eaten by a turtle?

    Im not saying PTSD is not serious. Im not saying cops dont have a hard job. But I do believe we are a bit too liberal on some things. America is becoming sissyfied.

  10. The story says shooting a deer to put it out of its misery after being struck WOULDN’T be included.

  11. I think the mental strain and anguish suffered by this police officer deserves to be compensated. Anyone who would be so cold and hard to say “Of course the law shouldn’t be changed! What part of ‘Protect and Serve’ doesn’t he understand???” doesn’t show an ounce of human compassion. A normal person does not have to face any of the violence and trauma that a police officer has to face on a daily basis. They lay down their lives to protect and serve and when they need worker’s comp for this type of injury I think they are entitled to it.

  12. I agree with Jesslee. Come on people – our police officers get out there everyday and face things we don’t even think about having to face. I believe that the officer having to witness the chimp tearing off the womans face and hands is bad enough but the animal jumped in the car with him…..why is that differant than a person trying to attack him and him having to shoot. I don’t know why this is even a discussion – there should be no question, he deserves to be compensated!

  13. I agree with Jesslee and Cheryl. This situation was a horror movie come to life and should be covered.

  14. As always, we tend to get caught up in the language and semantics and lose the big picture. If a person is injured on the job, they should be compensated. Unfortunately we have many public service workers and veterans who have been injured as a result of their service and are left to fend for themselves. When it comes to being patriotic, everyone clamors to get close to them and get their picture with them. When it comes to doing what is right, everyone argues about the wording of the law. Why does it take a lawsuit to get companies (and people) to do what is right?

  15. Shontay Garvin says:

    I think its crap that this situation is any different from him experiencing a shooting he still had to see the woman being torn apart by this monster chimp, he will have to live with that for the rest of his life.

  16. He was in the line of duty and working. He deserves full workmanscomp.
    It must have been awful to have seen the lady’s face ripped off, and to keep thinking and remembering what he had seen being replayed over and over in his thoughts….. the best medicine for him is just to keep busy and find other challenging things to do…
    Regarding the Law…I believe that some people should not be writing these type of laws, because the words, and their thinking is so narrow, it misses the bigger overall picture.

  17. The law should NOT be changed. How ridiculous we have become to even consider such stupidity! Why would we consider another costly “entitlement” for such an unusual situation? If it happens 100 times a year it is still outside of the norm. We have become a nation of sissies when the supposed tough guys (police officers) can’t function after performing a job they were hired to do.

  18. Call me biased (retired and I thank God I never had to fire on anyone, human or animal). When it comes to firing your weapon in response to protecting yourself/another person, I don’t care what anyone says (walk in the officers shoes and tell me then), it becomes a traumatic experience. Happened on the job, should be covered if requested. Not all officers seek help when they should (trying to keep that tough guy image) and some make the headlines (suicide). Other do recognize the need for assistance to deal with it and salvage what they started with (their well being). Anyone who questions what the officer is experiencing, needs to take a hard look in the mirror and ask what they would have done “Monkey,Grizzly,whatever”. Not a pleasant thought for those of you who are visual in thinking.

  19. I can see changing the law so that it covers discharging your weapon, but not for a specific animal or animals. This was life or death, no doubt about it. This officer was no sissie (see Michael above). How many viet nam vets are messed up because they never got the help they needed after being traumatized? Are they sissies too? Give me a break. If you had to respond with deadly force to protect yourself, then deal with a person who has been torn to ribbons, you’d need help too.
    The officer put himself in deaths path to protect us. We owe it to him now to protect him.
    He deserves the comp.

  20. Thank you, Wayne, for sharing your valuable perspective. What I find so difficult to understand about the denial of Workers’ Comp in this case is that there is a diagnosed case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder–that does not seem to be at issue. That it was caused by the horrific Chimpanzee incident (at work) doesn’t seem to be at issue, either. The denial is resting on a loophole, and that isn’t right. Good point about comparing this to the experiences of Vietnam veterans, Mike.

  21. Things like this should be decided on a case by case basis. Do not change the law as it will be taken advantage of.

  22. If getting help to deal with PTSD is “sissey behavor” whether job related or not, I say three cheers for the “sissies”. If there were more so called “sissies” and fewer “tuff guys” I would venture to guess there would be fewer verbal and physical abusive people to deal with. PTSD is a very real problem and when it is caused by a job related incident it should be worker’s comp covered. We don’t need more laws. We need fewer “trying to get out of what’s right” people in this world. It may come as a big surprise to some of you but Worker’s Comp exists so deserving employees don’t have to “suck” up the pain but get the help they need.

  23. Key word in PTSD is Traumatic. Putting an animal out of it’s misery is a completely different circumstance than watching an animal go bezerk and RIP SOMEONE TO PIECES in front of you. Can you imagine what would be going through this poor guy’s head to see that? Of course you can’t! This man isn’t a sissy by any means.
    That being said, I have to agree with Brian V above though, because he’s exactly right. This is the kind of situation that could get out of hand real fast. It’s an open door, and an invitation for abuse of a system envisioned to help.

  24. Look, there’s no doubt that facing down a mammal (Human, Chimpanzee, Lion, etc.) that is intent on killing you is traumatic especially when you have to kill or be killed but, as a police officer, you know when you sign on it is a big possibility. As a Paramedic for 22 years now I have seen my share of sad and gruesome scenes some of which have shaken me but that is what I signed on for. I have, on occasion, taken time off to regroup but not at anyone elses expense. I hope I am never faced with the “kill or be killed” decision but if I am and if by God’s grace I’m the one still standing I expect to continue on without anyone else’s monies for “pain and suffering”. As Lola G stated above, Worker’s Comp does exist so deserving employees can get the help they need but the abuse of the program by those that DON’T deserve it is staggering.

  25. Wow! Michael – I would think after working 22 years in your field and working as close to police officers as you probably do you would have a little more compassion that that. I know your job is hard and you have seen alot of bad things but please don’t compare your job to a police officers job. And good for you that you have never had to ask for anyones help after a traumatic experience but you can’t really say that you never would because until you are in a situation like that man was – you don’t really know what you would do or how you would feel. Come on people – we hand out so much to people that really don’t deserve it and we are going to question a person that puts his LIFE on the line everyday to protect us! Shame on any one that doesn’t feel this man deserves the help!

  26. I am 30 years old and work as a safety director for a hospital in a small town. Before I worked at the hospital I was an officer for the Sheriff’s department. While there I was dispatched to an incident involving a mountain lion attack at a residence located back in one of the many small mountain canyons we have surrounding the valley the town is located in. It was called in by the 5 year old son of a man who was being attacked. Long story short, The lion tore the man apart (literally). When I arrived at the home, it was about 35-40 ft to the porch and the front door. The boy opened the front door as soon as I pulled up and before I could get unbuckled and out of the car he came running toward me and the lion pounced on the boy. I won’t go into detail, but suffice it to say that not even anything I saw while in the special forces compared to what I was witnessing. I fired 3 rounds into the animal and it didn’t even turn its attention to me until after the second round. It charged and the third round went into the skull and killed it. I only lay that out so you can get an idea of where I am coming from.
    With that being said, there is no question that officer Chiafari should receive any compensation he needs. Luckily I have a very dear friend who is a clinical psychologist who offered to work with me for free. It’s not that the officer is a “sissy” or looking for a handout. Speaking from experience, when you have taken that oath to protect and serve, and you take it to heart, and then encounter a situation where you couldn’t fulfill that duty, in connection with the savagery of the scene, and the treat of your own life being on the line in a situation that is out of the ordinary scoop of your training, PTSD is nothing more than a clinical term that doesn’t begin to touch the surface of what goes through the minds processes and associated feelings. I still deal with occasional bouts of depression and self doubt because of that incident.
    I think it is all around wrong how this case was handled, and the fact that the officers comp. was denied because of semantics is appalling. I don’t know that an overall law should be changed as is talked about as in the article, but when a situation as clear cut as this is presented that doesn’t fall perfectly within the “letter of the law” the law needs to be thrown out and the right thing needs to be done.

  27. Pat H: Thanks for sharing your story and perspective.

  28. gillis61 says:

    Pat! WOW! I can’t imagine the horror and terror and feelings you experienced not being able to save the father adn to witness the attack on the child as well. Thank you for your service! And thanks to your friend for being there with professional guidance.

    Michael – I do not believe the officer in this case, requesting coverage for PTSD treatment is ABUSING the work comp system. I agree with poster above who states the work comp denial is based on a loophole. If an officer is forced to discharge his weapon in the face of lethal force from who or whatever adn thn later suffers from PTSD – they deserve for that to be covered under work comp. Nothing sissified about it. And aas stated above – this is an unusaul and unique situation to the point where you do not think the laww should be changed… yet also say an officer knows what they are getting into when they sign on… No way he ever imagined being faced with this scenario any more than PatH could have in the incident with the lion.

  29. Pat H. – I am so very sorry for what you had to go through but so very glad you were able to post your story. I agree with you 100%. I don’t believe the law should change but I do think they should look at every instance and take it from there. Your story gave me chills and I wasn’t even there. I can’t imagine how I would feel to be in that same situation. And that is part of the problem – people that can sit and make these decisions but have never had to experience any thing remotely close to what you and the officer with the chimp experienced. God bless you both!

  30. You people are killing me with your crying. A cop shoots a monkey, are you serious? He, or she, now needs workers comp? Get another job if using your weapon against a monkey causes you to mentally crash. When WC was instituted it was designed for the worker who was SERIOUSLY injured and unable to work. You guys do still remember what an injury is, right. The trial attorney has now turned everything into a WC case. Didn’t you just read the other post where a woman was awarded 100k because of a “perfume” case. If you agree to give this person WC you also need a different job. Come on America you’re crashing the system with all the WC bs. It’s just like social security, once you milk it dry there is none left for the legit needs.

  31. A chimpazee is FAR from just another monkey!! They are just as deadly as a person with a gun in a situation such as this–and are known for being vicious and just plain dangerous, which is why you can’t keep one as a pet in most jurisdictions. In that respect, even though they seem “cute” and “friendly,” the fact is they’re just as dangerous as the mountain lion in the post above. The officer could very well suffer PTSD simply due to the savagery of the attack, along with the fact that he, himself, was actually attacked, but had the tools (car door, gun) to avoid physical injury. You folks that think he’s a “sissy” or couldn’t possibly have suffered mental trauma from this event are simply cold, cold, COLD. Quit trying to be so MACHO–I can only hope similar circumstances NEVER happen to you so that you don’t have to find out from first-hand experience! The state should respect the spirit of the law, not just the letter of it.

Leave a Reply to Mike R Cancel reply

*