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Vigil held for Jacob Griffin, who was shot, killed by Metro police in South Nashville

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Posted at 11:29 AM, May 06, 2021

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A Nashville organization that advocates for people experiencing homelessness hosted a vigil to remember the life of a 23-year-old man who was killed by police in South Nashville.

Jacob Griffin was fatally shot by an officer Saturday after his mother called 911 for help. She told officers her son has schizophrenia, had a gun and could be dangerous.

In a statement, Open Table Nashville said instead of Griffin being treated as a human being in need of care he was treated as a threat to be neutralized.

Griffin was living on a plot of land behind a Goodwill near Nolensville Pike where he was previously employed. His mother told dispatchers he had been texting her threats to kill her and others along with pictures of a full magazine of bullets. Police say Griffin had a gun but refused to surrender it.

Police tried to negotiate with Griffin but eventually used distraction devices, hard foam rounds and eventually a K-9 unit to get him into custody.

Griffin fired his gun twice - and that's when a SWAT officer fired back. His mother believes her son should still be alive today.

That message is echoed in a statement by Open Table Nashville, which says in part, "we know what works, and it’s not treating human beings as threats to be neutralized. Both research and our personal experience has taught us that what works is trauma-informed care. It’s building trust and rapport. It’s active and reflective listening, offering support and resources, connecting and coming alongside the person."

The organization also asked why Nashville hasn't invested in crisis response teams that don’t involve police officers.

Thursday's vigil was cut short by severe weather but the group made sure to take time to remember Griffin and be a voice for those like him suffering from mental health issues.

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You can read the full statement by Open Table Nashville below:

"Our team and others from the outreach community are mourning the death of Jacob Griffin who was shot and killed by an MNPD officer last Saturday night. Jacob was 23 years old. He lived at a campsite in South Nashville behind the Goodwill and he liked motorcycles and tools. One of our colleagues who knew Jacob for over two years described him as 'a teddy bear.' We will be holding a vigil for him later this week.

Jacob was a human being. He needed care. Housing. Employment. He and other Goodwill employees had been 'let go' months before because of a change in management at the store. He was hurting, struggling both mentally and emotionally.

Jacob’s mom reached out to MNPD on Saturday because she was concerned about her son. He had a gun he used to shoot rodents at the camp, and she was concerned about threats she said he made. 'He is armed,' she said on the 911 call, 'and I personally would consider him dangerous. He has never actually been violent. I really don’t want the police to kill him, but I don’t want him to kill anyone else either.'

MNPD officers went to the camp after his mom asked them to check on him, and instead of being treated as a human being in need of care, he was treated as a threat to be neutralized. When he refused to come out of his tent after hours of 'negotiating,' the officers devised a plan to extract him by using distraction devices, hard foam rounds, and a police dog that viciously attacked Jacob and pinned him to the ground. In the chaos of this violent “extraction,” shots were fired and Jacob was killed.

Jacob was 23 years old.

Was his life not worth more than a few hours of 'negotiating?' Why has Nashville not invested in crisis response teams that don’t involve police officers? As Jacob’s mother told Channel 5 news, '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.'

At Open Table Nashville, we have trained dozens of organizations and agencies in 'Trauma-Informed De-escalation' over the years and we are experienced in offering emotional first aid. We know what works, and it’s not treating human beings as threats to be neutralized. Both research and our personal experience has taught us that what works is trauma-informed care. It’s building trust and rapport. It’s active and reflective listening, offering support and resources, connecting and coming alongside the person. It’s innovative community-based public safety models like CAHOOTS in Eugene, Oregon that are proving to be effective in defusing situations like this.

Our friends at NOAH (Nashville Organized for Action and Hope) and others across the city are proposing a similar model for Nashville called HEALS (Health Engagement and Liaison Services). It is crucial that we invest in these models and that we have a crisis response team that is independent from the police, rather than a “co-response” model.

Jacob deserved better. His friends and family members deserve better. Our community deserves better.

As we mourn Jacob’s death, let our collective tears, anger, and love fuel the creation of a better world where true public safety is not just the absence of violence but the presence of a society where everyone has what they need to thrive."