Editor’s note: In response to InMaricopa‘s Aug. 11 story about a wounded police officer’s efforts to fundraise for food and other necessities, the city of Maricopa ended its silence Aug. 15 about injured employee pay. “What is not paid by workers’ compensation is covered by the city to make the employee’s salary whole,” the city said.
ORIGINAL STORY Aug. 11, 2023, 1:21 p.m.: Like a video game perversely brought to life, Maricopa Police Cpl. Joshua Fox bravely chased down suspected auto thieves after one opened fire and shot him the night of June 28.
He didn’t get the hero’s homecoming you might expect.
Amid record-topping heat, a busted air-conditioning unit welcomed him home from the hospital. Mounting evidence suggests it’s a struggle to make ends meet as his return to the line of duty remains nebulous.
“Cpl. Fox remains in recovery at home,” city officials said in a statement Monday.
But they refused to answer questions about the wounded officer’s paycheck — or if there’s a paycheck at all.
InMaricopa submitted two Freedom of Information Act requests to the city for body-worn camera footage of the tragic encounter — one the day of the shooting and another June 30.
Today, 44 days later, the city has yet to fulfill its legal obligations despite publishing some of the requested footage to its own social media pages Aug. 7.
All the while, crowd-funding efforts purport to help Fox pay for his most essential needs. It took only days for the community to supply him the equivalent of a few months’ salary. But why?
The city of Maricopa refused more than once to directly answer questions about Fox’s post-injury compensation and refused to acknowledge if it’s making Fox whole.
A request to interview Fox was denied.
“Cpl. Fox sustained a work-related injury, and as such, the city is following workers’ compensation guidelines under state law,” spokesperson Monica Williams said when asked for the injured officer’s compensation schedule.
She didn’t cite any actual Arizona statutes.
What does the city’s paltry response do to answer the question of compensating its injured officer? According to two local cops wounded in the line of duty and an employment law expert — next to nothing.
‘There’s a misconception’
Phoenix Police Officer Trisha Eskridge served more than two decades when she was shot in an ambush last year rescuing an infant. Her disability claim was denied. And that denial was legal under the state law Williams alluded to.
Tempe Ret. Sgt. Dan Masters was critically injured rescuing people from a burning apartment building after two decades of service. He said “there’s a misconception” officers wounded in the line of duty will be “set for life.”
Masters made a workers’ compensation claim that was also denied. What ensued was an arduous battle with the city of Tempe.
We asked him if it’s a given cops can make ends meet post-injury, as Maricopa officials seemed to imply.
“Sadly, no,” Masters told InMaricopa. “It can be challenging.”
He referenced his fellow Tempe officer, Scott Tipton, who served less than three years before he survived seven gunshots during a routine domestic violence call. Tipton only received about $2,000 monthly after his injury — far below the living wage in Arizona.
“He had to seek additional employment,” Masters said.
Chandler employment attorney David Alan Dick, who has represented workers’ compensation claims for three decades, said the city of Maricopa’s response offers virtually no information.
Fox is covered by workers’ compensation insurance, Dick said. But he must make his own claims and the ensuing payout is not promised. He could receive a monthly paycheck capped at a fraction of his salary or a lump settlement.
“That’s why employees hire attorneys,” Dick said.
It’s simply not as straightforward as the city might have you believe.
Workers’ compensation “doesn’t replace all of his wages,” Dick said. “And the employer can deny a claim for one of several reasons.”
“There is a wide range when it comes to his benefits or lack thereof,” the employment attorney said. “There’s never a guarantee what will be covered.”
Making ends meet
Johnny Maynard, who organized fundraising efforts, said the money was needed because Fox would be “out of work for an extended period of time” and needed donations to go on as the “sole provider for his family.”
Fundraisers said Fox couldn’t afford groceries or routine home repairs after his injury.
Fox and his family made a public plea for Walmart and Fry’s Marketplace gift cards. He said he didn’t want home-cooked food. He needed cash. He also requested Visa gift cards pre-loaded with money.
Within a week, donors numbering in the hundreds contributed $14,305 in cash and an unknown number of gift cards.
Donors who spoke with InMaricopa indicated they believed their contributions would make up for lost income.
Maricopa resident Sarah Burger said she tendered her $50 donation because Fox “would be out of work for a period of time.”
“Him being injured on the job and out of work was enough to inspire the donation,” Burger said. It’s a sentiment echoed by fellow Maricopa resident Barry Vogel, who said he donated $25 for a “simple” reason.
“I support the police officers that work on our city streets,” he said.
Out of pocket
Maricopa’s Fraternal Order of Police lodge, a union that represents the police department, did not respond to interview requests.
But the Maricopa Police Foundation, a local nonprofit that helps the police department with non-budgeted expenses and community outreach, was also compelled to chip in.
Vice President Chris Cahall told InMaricopa the city’s annual clothing allowance wasn’t enough to replace the uniform that was left bloodied and gunshot.
“[Fox] would have paid for that out-of-pocket,” Cahall said. “This was one of those things that we could assist an officer directly with during an unfortunate situation for him.”
Fox earned a promotion from police officer to corporal last year. He killed one suspect in the June episode near Valencia Drive and Madrid Avenue in Tortosa.
Because the shooting happened on the Gila River Indian Community, the FBI launched an investigation and since identified the surviving suspects.
The case remains open.