Brentwood mother speaks out after armed son with schizophrenia shot by Metro officer

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NASHVILLE, Tenn (WKRN) — On May 1, 2021, Karen Griffin said she received hundreds of threating text messages from her 23-year-old son, Jacob Griffin.

According to Griffin, he’d been suffering from schizophrenia for at least seven years and only took medication sporadically. As the text messages grew more violent, Griffin decided to contact police.

“I decided I would call the police that Saturday because he wasn’t just threatening to kill me. He was threatening to kill other people. And he texted me a picture of a handgun in his hand with two bullets,” Griffin said.

Griffin was hesitant to call authorities because she feared police may shoot her armed son. She even said in her call to Metro dispatch she did not want police to kill him.

Two Metro police officers responded to a wooded area behind the Goodwill off Nolensville Pike about an hour after Karen Griffin called them. She said her son was choosing to live in a homeless camp there, despite having offered for him to move in with her.

“He had all kinds of false beliefs, and I was his only person,” Griffin said.

About six months ago, Karen said the Goodwill location fired Jacob and he went into a “downward spiral.”

“He had spent six months after being terminated from the Goodwill, I think, believing that the Goodwill was the only employer in America who would ever give him a job. Because they exist almost entirely for people like Jacob with special needs,” Griffin said.

When the Metro police officers found Jacob on May 1, he did have a handgun, but refused to surrender it. They called in SWAT negotiators and a mental health mobile crisis staff.

According to a video press release from the Metro Nashville Police Department, officers negotiated with Jacob for four hours and used distraction devices, hard foam rounds and a K-9 team to try and convince Jacob to put his weapon down.

During the course of all this, Metro police said Jacob fired at officers twice. After the second time, a SWAT officer fired back.

“I reached out to the only place where Americans and parents like me can ask for help. I called for help for Jacob and for us. And they killed him,” Griffin said.

The morning after the shooting, Metro police posted about five minutes of body camera footage to YouTube. Griffin said she wants them to release everything they have to the public.

“The police are the only people at the moment in the public domain shaping the story and I don’t know what happened. I would like to know what happened. I would like to know the whole story and I would like for the public to know the whole story so that we can all understand what happened there,” Griffin said.

News 2 requested the full, unedited body camera footage after the shooting, but has not received a copy.

Griffin said she’s heartbroken she made the call that ultimately may have led to her son’s death.

“It was a very hard choice to make, and it’s going to be a much harder one to live with,” Griffin said.

She hopes police across the country can be further trained on how to interact with those suffering from schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.

“Some kind of training, some kind of understanding about what they’re dealing with might’ve helped them. Might’ve helped them avoid having to, or feeling compelled to, kill him,” Griffin said.

The investigation was turned over to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. The TBI has not released any further details or findings since the incident on May 1.

The Metro Nashville Police Department did not have any further comment when contacted by News 2 on Thursday afternoon.

Griffin has hired an attorney and may bring legal action against the Metro Nashville Police Department.

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