Norwalk, CT – A 30-year veteran of the Norwalk Police Department has been twice denied workers compensation for injuries sustained when he was accidentally shot by another officer during training last year.
Norwalk Police Officer Philip Roselle is still fighting for his life one year after a superior officer at his department accidentally shot him, The Hour reported.
The shooting occurred on Sept. 5, 2017 after a long day of in-service training for the department’s new Glock 17 pistols.
While the officers were cleaning their weapons, Officer Roselle’s supervisor failed to properly unload his weapon before disassembling it.
“I just remember I was cleaning my gun when I heard a ‘bang’ and I felt a pain in my chest and in my arm, and I looked down and there was blood everywhere,” Officer Roselle told The Hour.
The police report said the wounded officer stumbled backwards and fell to the ground.
The shot went through Officer Roselle’s arm and into his chest, lodging the 9mm bullet in his rib cage in a spot where it cannot be removed. The officer told The Hour he can still feel it every time he moves.
He has suffered numerous and ongoing complications from the wound. There have been blood clots, a partial blockage of his heart, permanent nerve damage to his right hand, and most recently, kidney failure.
Officer Roselle told The Hour he also suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and swings of depression since having been shot.
But with all the trauma that the officer and his family have suffered, nothing seems worse than the indignity of being denied care by the city for whom he’s risked his life since he was 21 years old.
The Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Commission has twice denied Officer Roselle coverage for the ongoing health problems associated with his on-duty injury, according to The Hour.
Workers’ Compensation has blamed the 51 year old’s medical issues on the Type 1 diabetes that he has had since he was 19 year old, but he and his family have maintained that his diabetes was under control and he was in good health prior to the shooting.
“I’ve always been diabetic, that’s never impeded my ability to be a police officer,” Officer Roselle said. “For 30 years, I did everything that a police officer is required to do, and I did it to the fullest.”
City officials have pointed the finger at the state commission who denied the claim.
Former Norwalk Police Chief and current Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling said the city had no role in the decision, The Hour reported.
“We need to do everything we can to protect our first responders,” Rilling said. “They put their lives on the line day in and day out, and we need to make sure that we’re here for them when they need us.”
The mayor said he had recently been in touch with the family to “figure out what options are available,” The Hour reported.
The family confirmed that Rilling had been in touch but said nothing has changed so far.
The bills for emergency room visits, four hours of dialysis three times a week, and endless doctor’s appointments have piled up to the point where Officer Roselle has had to forego much-needed physical therapy for his injured right hand, according to The Hour.
He has burned up all his vacation and sick leave, and he got his last paycheck from the department in the end of August, according to a GoFundMe account set up by fellow Norwalk Police Officer Kelly Hollister.
“Financially, to say the least, this has been devastating on Phil, his wife and family,” Officer Hollister wrote on the fundraising page. “Phil’s accumulated vacation and sick leave is at the end, which means he will no longer have an income to help support his family and cover the never-ending medical bills. To make matters worse, permanent nerve damage to his right hand caused by the shooting will prevent him from ever working again.”
She explained that as a result of all the complications, Officer Roselle needed a kidney transplant. But he can’t be put on a donor list until the other pending medical issues are better cleared up.
His wife said the state’s refusal to accept responsibility has devastated her husband, whose older son is a New Haven police officer, and who has two young sons at home.
“For him to go to work one day and to have something like this happen, which you have no control over, it’s not only a financial setback, it’s also a mental setback,” Debbie Roselle, the officer’s wife, told The Hour. “For Phillip to get better, he needs his mental state to be in a better place, and that feeling of abandonment, when you serve your city and you put your life on the line for 30 years, and they turn their back on you, it just hurts.”
Every day is a struggle for the wounded officer.
“My life did a 360 that day,” Officer Roselle said. “I still try to do the best I can, but as a man, I’m expected to be the bread winner, the father figure, the foundation of the family and all. I’m used to protecting and helping people. To turn around and have everyone needing to help me, it’s something that will take some time getting used to.”
The officer’s attorney, Matthew Paradisi, called the situation “untenable” and “unethical.”
“From our perspective, legally, Norwalk should be coming to the table and compensating him for these injuries. And the fact that his benefits were cut off, in my mind, is unconscionable,” Paradisi told The Hour.
Norwalk resident Marcy Demby said she was horrified to learn about the officer’s ongoing battle with workers’ compensation. She commended the officers who were fundraising on his behalf.
“His own fellow officers know what’s right and the friggin city is being cheap,” Demby told Blue Lives Matter.
She pointed out that many elected officials continue to get paid and received health benefits after they are out of office, and they weren’t shot in the line of duty.
“It’s terrible. This poor guy. I think it should definitely be a workers comp situation,” said Shannon Anpha, another Norwalk resident. “Especially because this was on the job. He got hurt on the job. I would say we should be taking care of him.”
The president of the police union, Norwalk Police Lieutenant Dave O’Connor told The Hour that it’s the union’s position that this was an on-duty injury, and that Officer Roselle should be entitled to workers’ compensation “until he is able to return to work.”
“We are concerned that he is not getting what he needs from workers’ comp, and we would like to see that resolved as quickly as possible,” Lt. O’Connor said. “He doesn’t have a paycheck coming in now, which is causing us great angst and it’s putting an enormous amount of strain on his family.”
Officer Roselle was appreciative of his fellow officers’ support.
“My other family, the ones that I worked in the street with, have been great with helping me out. The moral support I’ve received from them — it means a lot,” he told The Hour.
He said he’s waging a war against the bad ruling by workers’ compensation on behalf of himself and any other officer who got injured in the line of duty.
“I want to make sure that this never happens again, and if it does, then I want to make sure that the procedures that the city takes in protecting police officers will be a lot better than it has been for me,” Officer Roselle said. “We [officers] take this job to serve and protect the city, and all we ask back for it is a little respect back from the city.”