Stress Claim Denied for Connecticut Cop Who Shot Chimpanzee

February 19, 2010

A Connecticut police officer who shot and killed a 200-pound chimpanzee last year after it mauled a woman has been denied an insurance claim for post-traumatic stress disorder because state law only applies to police shootings of people.

State Sen. Andrew McDonald introduced legislation Tuesday — the one-year anniversary of the attack — designed to help the officer get workers’ compensation coverage. His bill would change the law to allow claims for mental or emotional impairment when officers are required to use deadly force on animals that attempt to injure them.

“This officer was placed in a very dangerous situation, and he displayed tremendous bravery and control in those circumstances,” McDonald said. “He put himself in harm’s way for the people of Stamford, and I think the system that was designed to help police officers in such circumstances should be modified to help this officer.”

The 200-pound chimpanzee named Travis went berserk after its owner asked her friend, Charla Nash, to help lure it back into her house. The animal ripped off Nash’s hands, nose, lips and eyelids.

Officer Frank Chiafari shot the chimpanzee after it tried to get into his patrol car, said police Capt. Richard Conklin. Travis knocked off a mirror, ripped open the door and reached in for Chiafari, said Joseph Kennedy, president of the Stamford Police Association.

“The animal is covered in blood, it’s just raging out of control,” Kennedy said. “Luckily, Frank was able to get his service weapon out from a seated position and shoot the animal.”

The officer has suffered anxiety, flashbacks, nightmares and mood swings, Kennedy said, but Conklin said he is now back on duty.

“There was a time when he had difficulty sleeping and lost a great amount of weight, but with time he’s doing better,” Conklin said.

The officer just wants his medical bills covered and hopes the bill will lead to recognition that police suffer such injuries, Kennedy said. He said the officer’s workers’ compensation claim was denied.

Ann Marie Mones, the city’s risk manager, declined to comment Wednesday.

Kennedy said the officer has bad days, such as when Nash appeared recently on the “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” Nash has been hospitalized for the entire year since the attack. She remained in stable condition Wednesday at the Cleveland Clinic, a spokeswoman said.

Chiafari is declining interview requests.

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