PHOENIX (AP) - A volunteer posse member for the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office who was hospitalized for six months after being shot while trying to help a Phoenix police officer on New Year's Eve finally headed home Wednesday, saying he felt lucky to be alive.
"Ecstatic is the only thing that comes to mind," said Philip Grigg, sitting in a wheelchair at the Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn Medical Center.
The 63-year-old Army veteran was critically injured Dec. 31 when he came to the aid of Officer Scott Sefranka, who was pursuing several robbery suspects.
At the time, physicians feared Grigg wouldn't survive after suffering severe injuries to his lungs, liver, stomach and right kidney, Dr. Frank Mitchell, the hospital's director of trauma and surgical critical care, said Wednesday.
"It was a lot of different injuries to deal with at the same time," Mitchell said at a news conference with a smiling Grigg sitting nearby. "It's going to take him a while to get his strength back."
Sefranka, 34, also was shot but got released from the hospital a few days later.
"I feel very fortunate to be here right now," Grigg said, adding that just about all he could remember from that day was "the burning sensation when I got shot."
Sheriff Joe Arpaio hailed Grigg as a hero and said that once he feels better, he'll be put to work helping authorities investigate animal cruelty cases. Grigg is a member of Arpaio's volunteer posse but was off duty the day of the shooting.
"It's been a tough journey, an emotional ride, not just for the family, but for my office," Arpaio said.
On the day of the shooting, a fired strip club worker aimed to rob his former employer of up to $500,000 he believed was stored in the business' safe, authorities said.
Jason Beau Keep, 36, was fired from the Pink Rhino Cabaret in Phoenix just before Christmas, according to court records.
That's when he hatched a plan to recruit others in the midday robbery attempt, which was scrapped after they spotted a crowd outside the business, the records say.
Instead, Roger Allen Sharp Jr., 27, and David Lee Murray, 36, followed two strip-club employees to an east Phoenix restaurant, where they robbed the men at gunpoint and stole a duffel bag stuffed with $18,000, police said.
With Sefranka in pursuit, the pair then crashed their car. Murray fled, but Sharp was confronted by the officer and Grigg, who was driving by and stopped to help, authorities said.
Sharp wrestled away Sefranka's gun and shot both men before fleeing into a nearby neighborhood, investigators said. All three men were arrested within a few days. A fourth suspect, William Herbert Mayes, 30, was arrested a few weeks later in New York City.
Mayes has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit armed robbery. His sentencing is set for July 21.
Sharp is charged with attempted murder, resisting arrest and aggravated assault, among other counts. Murray faces charges of armed robbery and assault.
Keep, who once played basketball for the University of San Diego and Oklahoma State University and later played professionally for the Philippine Basketball Association, is charged with armed robbery.
They all have pleaded not guilty. Trial is scheduled for later this year.