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No PTSD coverage for officer who shot chimp

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — A police officer who shot and killed a chimpanzee last year after it mauled a woman has been denied a claim for workers' compensation for post-traumatic stress disorder because state law only applies to police shootings of people.

State Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford, 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.

The police officer, Frank Chiafari, shot the chimpanzee after it tried to get into his patrol car, said Stamford police Capt. Richard Conklin. Travis knocked off a mirror on the patrol car, ripped open the door and reached in for the officer, 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.

Chiafari now is back on duty, Conklin said. "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.

"These things do happen in policing, not that often, thank God," Kennedy said. "You're putting your life in jeopardy."

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." Chiafari is declining interview requests but may speak to lawmakers when a hearing is held on the bill, Kennedy said.

McDonald said the bill would apply to Chiafari's case because it encompasses pending claims, including the officer's appeal.

Nash has been hospitalized for the entire year since the attack. She remained in stable condition Wednesday at the Cleveland Clinic, a spokeswoman said.