Mother of slain man 'heartbroken' over son who 'was not in his right mind' during standoff

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Posted at 6:30 AM, May 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-03 08:14:49-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Karen Griffin says she was trying to save lives when she called Metro Nashville Police on her son, Saturday afternoon. She told officers her son, Jacob Griffin, suffered from schizophrenia, had a gun, and could be dangerous.

Sunday morning, Metro Nashville Police released bodycam footage with three angles of the shooting. The same video posted to YouTube also featured the 911 call made by Karen to alert police about her son.

Karen could be heard saying, “I really don’t want the police to kill him, but I don’t want him to kill anyone else either.”

Karen told 911 dispatchers her son is homeless and lives behind the Goodwill, where he was formerly employed until he was fired six months ago. Griffin's mother is heard telling dispatchers that her son has been texting her that he plans to kill her and other people, and sent pictures of a full magazine of bullets.

We spoke to Karen by phone on Sunday. She said her son had called multiple times over the past year and threatened her life, but this was the first time she felt he could be a danger to others.

Two South Precinct officers found Jacob in a wooded area around 3:30 p.m. Metro police spokesman Don Aaron said Jacob told the officers he had a gun but refused to surrender it. One of the officers attempted to use a Taser on Jacob, but it was ineffective. Although body cameras are currently being deployed to Metro Nashville police officers, many South Precinct officers still don't have them, and this interaction was not recorded.

At 4:10 p.m., police negotiator and SWAT officers have requested to the scene for assistance and about an hour later mobile crisis staff from the Mental Health Co-Op arrived and signed emergency committal papers for Jacob. Nashville's SWAT officers do have body cameras and the clips released by Metro police were recorded from SWAT officers who responded.

For more than three hours, Jacob continued his strange outbursts telling SWAT officers he was a “hypnotist.” Karen says crisis counselors went to the extent of recording messages for Jacob from his siblings.

“I got two kids today who worry that they didn’t find the right words to persuade their schizophrenic brother that today was the wrong day to choose to die,” said Karen.

Around 7:20 p.m., Jacob fired one shot from his pistol. SWAT officers could be heard saying, “you just fired a shot off and upped the game for no reason.”

Aaron says officers attempted to take Jacob into custody using distraction devices and hard foam rounds, before ultimately deploying the K9 unit. As Jacob struggled with the dog, he fired another round. Moments after, SWAT officer Matthew Grindstaff then fired back. Jacob was taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where he later died on Saturday night. No officers were hurt in the incident.

“I don’t doubt that they tried their best,” Karen said. Still, Karen believes her son should be here today. She says Jacob suffered from an often misunderstood condition. Without treatment, she says Jacob was never in control.

“We have a policing system in this country that if people are not quite a fit for society’s expectations, they often end up dead,” Karen said.

Aaron says MNPD is conducting an administrative review of their tactics. Meanwhile, TBI and the Community Oversight Board say they’ve launched investigations of their own. This is the fifth officer-involved shooting in Metro Nashville this year.

Read more: Man shot, killed by Metro police in South Nashville; Shooting under investigation