Officer Phil Roselle
Every time he moves, Phillip Roselle can feel the 9-mm bullet still lodged in the right side of his chest.
Roselle, a 30-year veteran of the Norwalk Police Department, was accidentally shot during a training session at a gun range in September 2017. He has been dealing with that bullet, along with a host of other medical issues, for the past year. Moreover, Roselle is not only out of work, but he’s still fighting for his life, reported thehour.com.
Complications from the shooting have led to blood clots, a partial blockage of his heart and permanent nerve damage in his right hand. Recently, doctors told Roselle that he will also need a kidney transplant to survive.
“My life did a 360 that day,” 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.”
After the shooting, Roselle knew he would have to fight to recover. Yet sadly, what he didn’t see coming was a fight with the city. The jurisdiction he had sworn an oath to protect had become his enemy.
Roselle, 51, has twice been denied workers’ compensation, according to thehour.comreport.
The Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Commission reasoned that an underlying health problem, Type 1 diabetes, is keeping him out of work. The family argues he was healthy until the shooting began his downward slide.
Furthermore, the city does not appear to be advocating for him. Friends and family blame Norwalk for the denial, saying it ultimately falls on the city to protect its first responders.
“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,” said his wife, Debbie Roselle. “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.”
Nevertheless, city officials say the decision is in the hands of the commission. In June, the commission made its second determination that Roselle is being kept out of work by his underlying medical condition, not any shooting-related injuries, according to Ray Burney, the personnel director for the city.
Both the commission and the Connecticut Interlocal Risk Management Agency, a municipal insurance provider, declined to comment.
Roselle, who was diagnosed with diabetes 32 years ago, said the commission’s conclusion couldn’t be farther from the truth.
“I’ve always been diabetic, that’s never impeded my ability to be a police officer,” Roselle said. “For 30 years, I did everything that a police officer is required to do, and I did it to the fullest.”
However, despite hurdles and setbacks, Roselle’s attorney, Matthew Paradisi, said they will continue to fight for compensation, calling the grounds for the denial “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 said.
Mayor Harry Rilling, a former Norwalk police chief and police union president, said the city had no role in the decision, adding that he recently reached out to the family to “figure out what options are available.”
“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 Roselle family confirmed that Rilling had reached out to them last week, but said there had been no progress with the case since.
Lt. Dave O’Connor, the president of the police union, said it is the union’s position that Roselle was injured at work, therefore he is 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,” 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.”