TN officer-involved shootings more than double year-to-date

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The shooting death of Jacob Griffin, an armed 23-year-old who fired at Metro Nashville Police officers, was the 20th police-involved shooting in Tennessee this year, according to the TBI.

Griffin’s mother called 911 saying her son, who had schizophrenia, was threatening to kill her and others.

Data from the TBI shows police-involved shootings have steadily increased since 2015.

Following questions from News 2, the TBI plans to update figures on their website. This year-to-date figure more than doubles what we saw this time last year with nine officer-involved shootings. That disparity in the numbers highlights the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which had parts of the area on lockdown in 2020.

Dr. Abhi Saxena, Medical Director of Hospital Services at Vanderbilt Behavioral Health, believes the pandemic is propelling long-lasting mental health issues that may affect figures moving forward.

“In the next year, three years, five years we will be dealing with a mental health crisis that will somewhat be stemming from the choices that we made in 2020,” said Saxena.

Saxena added enforcement is often the first to confront this situation.

“The folks who normally make those front-line checks are police officers.”

Their efforts were captured on bodycam footage from Saturday’s shooting. In the footage, a SWAT officer was heard saying, “If you want us to leave then you have to come out and talk to the counselor and then we all get out of here.”

While their attempts were unsuccessful, Dr. Saxena stressed oftentimes they are successful.

“You don’t hear about this all the time, but they do a lot of these wellness checks and take people to the ER. They save lives. They help people get to health care treatment.”

Dr. Saxena said the incident serves as a reminder to be aware of the mental health challenges people face and the responsibility we all have to speak up.

“I think any family member reaching out for help with their heart in the right place is never in the wrong. No matter how it ends up what happens, we are a really good community.”

If you are someone you know is in need of mental health or substance abuse help, you can call the Tennessee Redline at 1-800-889-9789.

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