An attempted traffic stop by a Pinal County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) deputy led to a high-speed chase and a shooting, which left 1 officer dead and another in the ICU. Officer Rico Aranda of Gilbert in Maricopa County suffered a serious head injury as a result of being struck by the suspect who was attempting to flee the scene. Officer Aranda has since been released to a rehabilitation facility where he continues to recover.
On April 29, 2021, Jonathon J. Altland Jr. was speeding on Arizona’s I-10 westbound. The PSCO deputy attempted a traffic stop and Altland Jr. fled, taking his truck to speeds in excess of 110 mph.
Altland Jr. shot at the deputy’s vehicle, shattering his passenger side windshield, before driving through the Chandler Municipal Airport, crashing the vehicle into an embankment and fleeing on foot into a car dealership.
Once in the dealership, Altland Jr. threatened a janitor and stole a vehicle from inside the dealership and attempted to flee again—taking aim directly at officers. The officers in Altland’s path fired their weapons at the vehicle. Chandler Police Officer Christopher Farrar, a DPS officer, a janitor for the dealership and Officer Aranda were all struck by the vehicle.
Officer Farrar later died of his injuries.
Officer Aranda has been on the Gilbert police force since 2018 and has no plans to let this injury stop him. According to his wife, Aranda said “he wouldn’t take back what he did it’s for the community and that’s what he signed up for.”
Two of Officer Aranda’s colleagues, Sargent Matthew Reale and Chief Michael Soelberg, visited Aranda while he was still in the hospital. Chief Soelberg commended Aranda for his service and expressed that he wouldn’t blame Aranda if he decided to retire after the incident.
Officer Aranda’s response was “‘Nah, dog. I’m gonna be chief one day.'”
On May 12, 2021, Altland Jr. faced the Maricopa County Grand Jury and was charged with 31 charges, including:
- One count of First-Degree Murder (Class 1 Felony)
- Unlawful Flight from Law Enforcement (Class 5 Felony)
- Burglary in the 1st Degree (Class 3 Felony)
- Endangerment (Class 6 Felony)
- 20 counts of Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon (Class 2 Felonies)
- Two counts of Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon (Class 3 Felonies)
- Two counts of Theft of Means of Transportation (Class 3 Felonies)
- Four counts of Disorderly Conduct-Fighting (1st-degree misdemeanors)
Compensation for police officer injuries
Recovering physically and emotionally from being injured in the line of duty isn’t the only challenge that injured police officers face. They also must grapple with the financial burden that comes with being out of work and medical bills.
That’s where workers’ compensation plays an important role.
Arizona is a “no-fault” state when it comes to workers’ compensation, which means that workers (including law enforcement and peace officers) who are injured on the job or in the line of duty are covered regardless of who caused the accident. There are certain rare exceptions to this rule, but generally this rule always applies and provides financial assistance to injured officers.
Workers’ compensation benefits for injured workers include:
- Medical expenses
- Wage loss and disability benefits
- Funeral expenses
In Arizona, injured police officers have 1 year to file a claim if they’re injured in the line of duty. It is the responsibility of the officer to notify their supervisor or captain as soon as an injury occurs.
Common police officers injuries and causes
Given the nature of being a law enforcement officer, there are numerous ways in which officers can be injured in the course of their work. Among the more common injuries that police officers face include:
- Back pain and spinal cord injuries
- Cuts, lacerations and punctures
- Fractured and broken bones
- Gunshot wounds
- Hip injuries
- Knee and leg injuries
Assault from other people or animals is the most common way that police officers can sustain an injury or be killed in the line of duty. Other causes include slips and falls, car accidents, being hit with objects, exposure to substances, explosions and fire.
When to consult an Arizona work injury attorney
Although Arizona is a no-fault state, it is still a good idea to contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney in the event that you’re injured in the line of duty. Workers’ compensation claims involving law enforcement personnel and peace officers are often complicated, which contributes to many claims being initially denied. Having a legal representative on your side can help you with the appeal process, and ensure that you receive the maximum compensation that you’re entitled to receive.
Arizona law enforcement officers who were injured on the job—or loved ones dealing with an officer fatality— reach out to the Law Offices of Robert E Wisniewski about the workers’ compensation rights you are entitled to. Your consultation is free.