Critically injured in a hit-and-run accident, Charlie Hopkins has made remarkable progress. He was released from the hospital Oct. 24.
Hopkins, an Arizona Department of Public Safety officer, was hit by an alleged drunken driver in Payson Aug. 24.
Thursday, friends and co-workers held a surprise party for him in Phoenix to celebrate his recovery and birthday.
The incident happened when Hopkins was walking on the sidewalk near the Mazatzal Casino. Police say the suspect in the case, 22-year-old Reed Hatch, struck Hopkins, then fled the scene.
The officer was thrown into a ditch by the impact and suffered critical injuries, including head trauma. He was airlifted to a Phoenix hospital and underwent surgery.
Family members and fellow officers feared the worst as Hopkins lay in a medically-induced coma to reduce the swelling of his brain.
According to Media Relations Officer Frank Valenzuela, Hopkins had been temporarily assigned to a narcotics task force operation in Payson. He was assisting with the destruction of marijuana plants being grown in a wilderness area northwest of Payson.
"I was just blown away when he walked into the party on his own," Valenzuela said. "He is in great spirits and there is no question he will be returning to the job. His recovery has just been remarkable."
Gila County Attorney Daisy Flores said there will be a hearing Nov. 14 on the case, to meet with Hatch's new attorney, Anna Ortiz.
"We're glad to hear that Charlie is doing well and on his way to recovery," Flores said. "We will diligently prosecute this case, especially since the suspect fled the scene of the accident," she added.
Hatch was indicted by a grand jury in September. He is charged with two counts of aggravated assault; failure to remain at the scene of an accident involving a fatality or serious injury; DUI-impairment; and DUI with blood alcohol level higher than .08.
He remains in custody at the Gila County Jail on a $100,000 bond.
See related stories:
Payson man indicted for injuring officer (Sept.. 30)
Driver in hit-and-run released (Aug. 30)
DPS officer in coma following accident (Aug. 23)
Hit-and-run driver injures DPS cadet (Aug. 19)