Hero Comes Home

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Shot three times on Saturday, Payson Department of Public Safety Officer Seth Meeske returned to his parents’ Payson home this Wednesday, amidst an outpouring of support.

Shot in the back, leg and forearm, Meeske has reportedly regained some ability to move his fingers although the bullet severed both an artery and damaged nerves to his hand.

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Photo courtesy of Department of Public Safety

Department of Public Safety Officer Seth Meeske

DPS spokesman Carrick Cook said, “Seth is doing well. He’s going through physical therapy. He’s staying at a relative’s house. We’re all hopeful that he’ll be back on the road — but they’re saying that will take quite a long while.”

Doctors hope for a full recovery, but Meeske will need months of rehabilitation, said Cook.

DPS has not released any additional details on the shooting and high-speed chase, which ended in the death of the suspect, Cody Archuelta, 22.

Cook said Meeske’s family has been buoyed by support from all over the state. Meeske’s father was for many years head of the DPS office in Rim Country.

“We’ve had a ton of support — not only from our agency which has been overwhelming, but from members of the community. They’re not only asking ‘How’s Seth doing?’ but ‘How’s the family doing?’ His family is his support system and when they all feel the appreciation and concern from the public, it makes it much easier to care for Seth.”

Cook said it will likely take months to compile a complete report on the incident, since it involved both the shooting of an officer and gunfire by several of the officers who pursued and cornered the suspect. A Payson police officer and a Gila County sheriff’s deputy both fired at Archuleta after he went off the road into a ditch and fired at officers. Investigators have not yet determined whether Archuleta’s fatal wound was self-inflicted.

The incident unfolded as Meeske made a routine traffic stop on Saturday night. Meeske walked up to the passenger side of Archuleta’s white sedan and rapped on his window, remaining behind the back-seat window — a cautious reflex that saved his life.

Without warning, Archuleta fired through the passenger side window, blasting glass into Meeske’s face and hitting him in the leg, back and through the forearm, severing an artery. Meeske made it back to his car and radioed a description of the car, then told the dispatcher calmly that he would drive himself to Payson Regional Medical Center. He steered the car mostly with his one good leg, since every time he released his grip on his forearm the severed artery spurted blood.

Back in town, rookie DPS Officer Robert Derango on his first night patrolling solo, spotted Archuleta’s car blowing through the stoplight at Main Street and the Beeline. With great presence of mind, the freshly minted officer radioed the car description with perfect calm and sped off in pursuit. Five Payson police cars and one sheriff’s car joined the pursuit through Pine, which at times exceeded 100 miles an hour.

Archuleta went off the road into a field on top of the Rim beyond Cinch Hook. He fired at officers who returned fire. When Archuleta stopped shooting, officers approached behind the cover of a patrol car, only to find him dying of a gunshot wound to the head.

DPS has not yet released information that might indicate why Archuleta, a convicted felon, was driving through Payson late at night with several guns in the car. Maricopa County court records show that at various times since 2009 Archuleta was charged with theft, trespassing, trafficking in stolen property, extreme DUI, flight from law enforcement officers, underage drinking and other crimes. The court records don’t indicate the disposition of all those charges. But the list of filings includes a recent case involving a probation revocation, followed by issuance of a warrant.

Ever since the incident, Rim Country has been suffused with concern for Meeske, a former Longhorn quarterback, Forest Service firefighter and 14-year DPS veteran.

ROUNDUP'S FACEBOOK PAGE POSTS

Betty Tillia: Prayers for Seth and his family.

Annette Haddox: Our church prayed for you on Sunday. Get well soon and thank you!

Andrea M Schmidt: So happy that you are recovering so well. I don’t know if I could’ve driven myself to the hospital ... you are a hero Seth.

Ninette Loucks: Your courage and bravery are very much admired by the community. Thank you for keeping us safe, but more importantly you are here today.

Tracy Walker: Thinking of Seth, his family, and all of our other angels who do a job most of us can’t/wouldn’t do. Thank you for the job you do.

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