888-500-9165 | Statewide Info-line info@biaaz.org

BRAIN WAVES

Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona Blog

Survivor of Random Shooting Now Advocates for Crime Victims’ Rights

Current headlines blare about crime victims seeking justice, but the topic isn’t a new one. For years, it has been an uphill struggle for victims to be heard and feel valued.

The efforts of the Crime Victims’ Rights Movement arose from a million cases of injustice that led to the 1984 Victims of Crime Act, solidifying rights and responsibilities on a national level. Understanding that victims often strive to recover from what is often the darkest moment in their lives, the new law sought to ensure they received respect throughout the legal process.

Today, the progress is palpable, as law enforcement, the medical community, and victim advocates work together to help minimize the physical, emotional, and financial impacts on victims. What’s more, the message to older survivors in particular is clear: If you fear physical abuse, financial exploitation, or criminal neglect, the justice system is designed to help you get the justice you deserve.

To commemorate these strides, Crime Victims Week (now known as Crime Victims’ Rights Week) was established in 1981, three years before the landmark legislation was signed into law. This year, it is being recognized April 18-24.

One of the most ardent supporters of these efforts in Arizona is a crime victim himself.

“People need to recover from their trauma and feel safe. Knowing they have rights and support is part of that healing. I feel fortunate I get to help others live their best possible life, regardless of their situation.”

Survivor of Random Shooting Now Advocates for Crime Victims’ Rights

Current headlines blare about crime victims seeking justice, but the topic isn’t a new one. For years, it has been an uphill struggle for victims to be heard and feel valued.

The efforts of the Crime Victims’ Rights Movement arose from a million cases of injustice that led to the 1984 Victims of Crime Act, solidifying rights and responsibilities on a national level. Understanding that victims often strive to recover from what is often the darkest moment in their lives, the new law sought to ensure they received respect throughout the legal process.

Today, the progress is palpable, as law enforcement, the medical community, and victim advocates work together to help minimize the physical, emotional, and financial impacts on victims. What’s more, the message to older survivors in particular is clear: If you fear physical abuse, financial exploitation, or criminal neglect, the justice system is designed to help you get the justice you deserve.

To commemorate these strides, Crime Victims Week (now known as Crime Victims’ Rights Week) was established in 1981, three years before the landmark legislation was signed into law. This year, it is being recognized April 18-24.

One of the most ardent supporters of these efforts in Arizona is a crime victim himself.

“People need to recover from their trauma and feel safe. Knowing they have rights and support is part of that healing. I feel fortunate I get to help others live their best possible life, regardless of their situation.”

In 2006, Jim Ledgewood had recently moved to Arizona to start his career as an architect at Swaback Architects & Planners and was enthusiastic about his future. He had been on the job only three months when he visited Famous Sam’s Sports Bar in Glendale one night. It was getting a little smoky, so he stepped outside to get a breath of fresh air.

Without warning, a gunman shot him in the head with a hollow point bullet. Neither he nor the shooter knew each other; it was discovered later that the perpetrator held a grudge against the bar manager for ejecting him the night before.

When Jim awoke in the hospital, he was told the bullet had exploded inside his head, affecting his temporal and frontal lobes, damaging his optic nerve, destroying his eardrum, and severing a nerve on the left side of his face. It also nicked his carotid artery, causing bleeding around his brain; to control the bleeding, 25 metal coils were installed.

Due to the permanent nature of the coils, this star athlete from northern California found himself unable to continue playing baseball, one of his favorite pastimes. Not to be deterred, Jim took up non-contact sports like golf and bowling. His competitive streak at least seems unaffected by his injuries—he has since bowled two perfect games (a score of 300).

Three months and several operations later, his architectural firm enthusiastically welcomed him back.

However, three years later, the market crashed, and, like many Americans, he was out of work for almost four years. He finally found a menial job with another firm for a year and was later rehired by Swaback. “I am eternally grateful to them. It takes a special employer to stay with someone in my situation,” Jim admits. “I realize it’s not that way everywhere.”

Even though no one at the hospital had informed him he had a brain injury, his colleagues at Swaback noticed changes in his abilities and cognitive skills. They worked closely with Jim, sending him to SWAN Rehab in Phoenix for vocational rehabilitation. Today, he is one of Swaback’s go-to experts.

“Jim is very fortunate to have an employer like that,” acknowledges Janice Podzimek, Interpersonal Violence Liaison for the Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona. “When people hear someone has survived a crime or attack, the possibility of brain injury isn’t the first thought that comes to mind. Unfortunately, [the injury] often causes hurdles for survivors seeking to return to their old life, including their family, work, and hobbies.”

To literally add insult to injury, “employers will usually lay off the person out of frustration, then they end up with nothing,” Janice says.
Despite the ongoing support he receives, the pain never goes away. “To this day, people always ask me if I’m still in pain since the bullet is still in my head,” relates Jim. “It’s like my head is in one of those vises from metal or wood shop from high school and someone is turning the handle; the pressure from the squeezing is intense. On a scale of one to 10, it’s about seven or eight every minute of every day. But it’s important that I persevere.”

That determination is a key part of Jim’s character; it helped with his physical recovery as well as aiding officials in the pursuit of the criminal who almost destroyed his life. It took three years to find the shooter and justice was not swift. The first trial ended in a hung jury, but the second returned a guilty verdict. “He was a real bad guy. Turned out when he was 17, he was incarcerated for shooting a friend,” recalls Jim.

In the process, he formed several relationships that are central to his fight for crime victims’ rights today. “I became very tight with Detective Roger Geisler. We remain friends today, even going magnet fishing.” (For the record, this involves dunking a huge magnet in a lake and attracting large metal objects sitting at the bottom.)

Jim also works closely with victims’ advocate Dan Levy, whose brother was shot and killed. Together, they raise awareness of the need for advocates, the importance of changing rules to address new realities, and how to receive financial compensation.

What’s more, Jim is very active with the Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona. In addition to his involvement with the heralded Unmasking Brain Injury project, he is a co-facilitator for Brain Cave, a support group for men 18 and older who have a brain injury. “I get to meet more people like myself,” says Jim. “It helps to share similar experiences.”

Being able to use his experience to help others has been wonderfully rewarding for him. “People need to recover from their trauma and feel safe. Knowing they have rights and support is part of that healing. I feel fortunate I get to help others live their best possible life, regardless of their situation.”

Pretty fitting for a guy whose motto is “headstrong and not giving up.”

ABOUT BRAIN INJURY ALLIANCE OF ARIZONA

The Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona (BIAAZ) is the only statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of adults and children with all types of brain injuries through prevention, advocacy, awareness and education. BIAAZ also houses the Arizona Brain Health Resource Center, a collection of educational information and neuro-specific resources for brain injury survivors, caregivers, family members and professionals.

What began in 1983 as a grassroots effort has grown into a strong statewide presence, providing valuable life-long resources and community support for individuals with all types of brain trauma at no charge.

The Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona:

  • Works with Congressional Brain Injury Task Force
  • Houses Arizona Brain Health Resource Center
  • Hosts Statewide Opioid Use Disorder & Cognitive Impairment Workgroup
  • Has Statewide Opioid Use Disorder & Cognitive Impairment Response team with peer support, training, and family wraparound services
  • Facilitates Brain Health Advisory Council
  • Manages statewide Neuro Info-Line: 888-500-9165

Blog Archives

Upcoming & Featured Events