Tempe councilman files $96K claim against ASU after Sparky incident

A Tempe councilman filed a multi-thousand dollar claim against Arizona State University Tuesday after an incident involving Sparky left him in the hospital. 

Tempe councilman David Schapira filed a $96,000 claim against the University after Sparky jumped on his back during the Sept. 18 football game, landing him in the hospital for four days.

The councilman had been recovering from a back surgery two months prior when he was taking sideline photos during the ASU-University of New Mexico game. 

While Schapira could not be reached for comment in time for publication, he told the Associated Press that he "was almost healed from the back surgery" prior to the incident.

Noticing the photo opportunity, the mascot took a running start and hopped on the councilman’s back, causing a “pop” in his lower back and dropping him to the ground “like an injured football player.”

“I tried to push Sparky off as my wife and others yelled for him to get off, but I needed the assistance of another council member, Joel Navarro, to get him off my back,” Schapira told the AP. 

Schapira, who is also a superintendent for the East Valley Institute of Technology, is asking for more than $96,000 in damages and $27,000 to reimburse the city of Tempe for his medical bills, according to the AP. 

He said he missed 10 days of work due to the injury.

Despite the pain and up to six months of additional recovery, Schapira told the AP that he is not mad at the University, who has publicly apologized for the incident and vowed to assist him with medical bills. 

"It's frustrating just having to deal with (recovery) day-to-day but that doesn't mean I'm mad at anybody,” he said in an interview with the AP. “Everyone keeps trying to play that angle, but I'm not.”

Schapira said he is not interested in suing the University but said the claim has to be filed in order to continue the process.

"It's the only way,” he said in an interview with the AP. “The state can't just pay a claim to someone. You have to file a notice of claim in order for them to pay anything.”

A statement from the University said school officials are interested in assisting with Schapira’s recovery.

“(The University) sincerely apologizes for the incident at the Sept. 18 game,” the statement read. “We have offered our fullest assistance and cooperation in getting the councilman’s bills paid, and we wish him a speedy recovery.”

Schapira said he has no grievances with the University, but it would have been a different story if the incident involved the University of Arizona’s mascot.

"If it had been Wilbur Wildcat, U of A's mascot, I'd have been livid," he said in an interview with the AP. 

CORRECTION: Due to a sourcing error, a previous version of this article listed the wrong amount of money for the claim against ASU. This version of the story has been updated with the correct information. 

Reach the reporter at Jlsuerth@asu.edu or follow @SuerthJessica on Twitter.

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