MESA, AZ — A Mesa police officer that was critically injured while on duty last year is focusing on helping others.
On August 11, 2020, Officer Sean Stoddard stopped his patrol car on US 60 near Greenfield Road to remove a ladder that was on the roadway. He was struck from behind and has been recovering from a traumatic brain injury since.
Stoddard said his brain erased everything from the accident.
"My brain is deleted, so I use the term Sean 1.0 and Sean 2.0," he said. "In the beginning, I wasn't able to walk. I wasn't able to talk. I wasn't able to feed myself."
It's the traumatic brain injury that left the most significant impact. "It's something that's with you forever," he said.
Stoddard said it's changed him, but it hasn't changed his priority to help people.
"I can focus on the anger, the frustration, the disappointment of the accident and the closed doors...or I can try to focus on 'Where am I going from this? What can I do? How can I help?'" he said.
Stoddard was deployed four times in the Army and is still in the Army Reserves. He's been with the Mesa Police Department for 14 years and is currently on light duty and assisting at the Mesa Family Advocacy Center.
He started his own nonprofit called Archangels, which helps veterans and first responders dealing with PTSD or other challenges.
Fellow army veteran and friend Randy Leopard is the director of the nonprofit. He said he and Stoddard know from experience how difficult it can be to get help.
"We've seen and we've experienced that--we haven't gotten the resources that we needed or we didn't know how to get those resources. So we want to help others that they don't have to go what we went through," said Leopard.
Stoddard has been focusing on work and volunteering where he can.
"He is amazing in keeping a positive mind and doing everything to try to still help others and not feeling sorry for himself," said Leopard.
Stoddard said he's grateful for his family, his community and the opportunity to still serve. He hopes anyone else going through a difficult time can also find a way to make a difference.
"If you have an opportunity to help someone, then help them, because it will bring you joy," he said.