ALTO, TX (KTRE) - It's been 3 months since an Alto police officer fatally shot a man who was suspected of taking a pack of cigarettes from a convenience store.
Monday, a grand jury cleared Alto police officer Brandon Smith of any criminal charges in connection with the January 23rd shooting death of 48-year-old James Griffin
The Texas Rangers have finished their investigation and we are now learning all the details about what lead to the deadly exchange.
Attorney Paul Robbins, a regional attorney for the Texas Municipal Police Association, can now confirm that James Griffin had a 3 foot machete and he used it as a weapon to threaten officer Brandon Smith.
"Mr. Griffin had evidentially been to a local store rather than paying for a purchase he brandished a 3 foot machete the store operator called 911 and indicated that someone had threatened with a knife, a large knife. Cherokee County Sheriff's Office dispatched officer Brandon Smith and officer Brandon Smith proceeded to the location they gave him further information of where the suspect was, what he was wearing. Officer Smith came to the location, the store clerk by that time was outside he pointed to Mr. Griffin, where Mr. Griffin was down the road. Officer Smith confirmed that's who he was referring to. As soon as Officer Smith stopped, Mr. Griffin turned and charged on him with a with a raised machete. Officer Smith shouted for him to lower the knife, Mr. Griffin failed to do so and the officer was unfortunately in a position where he had to use deadly force," said Robbins.
Robbins says 8 shots total were fired, 7 of those hit Griffin.
"Officer Smith was getting out of the car and had the door between him and Mr. Griffin. Mr. Griffin charged him and Officer Smith continued to shoot him until Mr. Griffin stopped.
Robbins says a statement made by a person claiming to be an eye witness who said they saw Smith standing over Griffins body unloading his clip is a lie.
[The] "autopsy report is going to show that all the 7 rounds that penetrated Mr. Griffin from a standing position," said Robbins. "Officer Smith waited till the very last second to use deadly force and again it's unfortunate that he was required to but he had no other option and I'm convinced that had he not used deadly force that Mr. Griffin would have seriously wounded or killed Officer Smith."
Robbins did confirm that Griffin was receiving treatment for a mental illness and was not taking his medication at the time of the incident.
"My understanding is that Mr. Griffin was an "access" patient. He was receiving treatment. It's also our understanding that he was not taking his medication at this time and likewise I believe the toxicology results indicate that he'd used alcohol and he was over the legal limit of intoxication."
Smith remains an officer with the Alto police department. He is still on administrative leave and will remain on leave until police chief Jeremy Jackson determines Smith's future.
"There will certainly be analysis and consideration of whether it will be good for the community for Mr. Smith to return," said Robbins. "There will also be an analysis of whether or not Officer Smith can safely work as a peace officer in Alto."
Robbins says the level of conflict and animosity in alto right now is not good for the police department, the city council or the City of Alto.
Robbins said, "This level of conflict and this type of animosity is not good for the department. It's not good for the council. It's not good for the City of Alto and someone's got to come forward to start the healing process and I think some individuals are already coming forward and so I think it all boils down to opening the lines of communication between the citizens, the city council, the police department. I think that, that's started. I'm hopeful. I want good things for Alto."
Robbins says he was told that this incident is the only situation in Alto where an officer had to use deadly force that has resulted in a fatality, ever.
Robbins also wants to clear up the facts about an investigation into whether or not Smith said a racial slur.
Robbins says Smith did not make a racial slur any time before the shooting. He says Smith, who is black, was having a personal conversation with another black officer on the phone and he was explain to the other officer that the alleged racial slur was something that was being said about him, not something he said.
Robbins also say a lot of statement in this case have been taken out of context and most are simply not true.