You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Activists honor police shooting victim at rain-soaked vigil: 'We have to do better'

The Tennessean (Nashville) logo The Tennessean (Nashville) 5/7/2021 Adam Tamburin, Nashville Tennessean
a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Friends and family come together for a vigil to honor Jacob Griffin Thursday, May 6, 2021 in Brentwood, Tenn. Jacob Alexander Griffin, who suffered from schizophrenia, died after a long and tense standoff with the Nashville police department's SWAT team. Police spokesman Don Aaron said an officer shot the 23-year-old after Griffin fired his gun twice. © George Walker IV / The Tennessean Friends and family come together for a vigil to honor Jacob Griffin Thursday, May 6, 2021 in Brentwood, Tenn. Jacob Alexander Griffin, who suffered from schizophrenia, died after a long and tense standoff with the Nashville police department's SWAT team. Police spokesman Don Aaron said an officer shot the 23-year-old after Griffin fired his gun twice.

Dozens of mourners huddled together Thursday outside a homeless encampment, shielding one another from the punishing wind and rain.

They wiped away tears for their loved one, Jacob Griffin, who died last week after a Nashville police officer shot him a few feet away from where they were standing. During a brief vigil, cut short by the storm, they remembered him as "a kind and gentle soul" who was "polite and caring."

a man and a woman taking a selfie: Tyler Bull hugs Karen Griffin during a vigil to honor her son Jacob Griffin Thursday, May 6, 2021 in Brentwood, Tenn. Jacob Griffin, who suffered from schizophrenia, died after a long and tense standoff with the Nashville police department's SWAT team. Police spokesman Don Aaron said an officer shot the 23-year-old after Griffin fired his gun twice. © George Walker IV / The Tennessean Tyler Bull hugs Karen Griffin during a vigil to honor her son Jacob Griffin Thursday, May 6, 2021 in Brentwood, Tenn. Jacob Griffin, who suffered from schizophrenia, died after a long and tense standoff with the Nashville police department's SWAT team. Police spokesman Don Aaron said an officer shot the 23-year-old after Griffin fired his gun twice.

They carried bright flowers, candles and signs saying "Care Not Killing" and "Jacob Deserved Better."

Start the day smarter. Get all the news you need in your inbox each morning.

The group of activists and family members saw Griffin's case as emblematic of a fundamental break in society.

"Your social status, your racial status, your mental health status should not be a death sentence. Asking for help should not be a death sentence," said Lindsey Krinks, co-founder of the anti-poverty advocacy group Open Table Nashville. "We have to do better."

More: A Brentwood mother called 911 to get help for her son. Hours later, police shot him and he died

Griffin, 23, was schizophrenic and homeless. His mother called police for help on May 1 after he sent her threatening text messages and a picture of ammunition. Nashville SWAT officers found him at the homeless camp and tried to negotiate with him for hours.

a person holding a sign: Karen Griffin with her daughter Caroline Griffin leave a vigil to honor her son Jacob Griffin Thursday, May 6, 2021 in Brentwood, Tenn. Jacob Alexander Griffin, who suffered from schizophrenia, died after a long and tense standoff with the Nashville police department's SWAT team. Police spokesman Don Aaron said an officer shot the 23-year-old after Griffin fired his gun twice. © George Walker IV / The Tennessean Karen Griffin with her daughter Caroline Griffin leave a vigil to honor her son Jacob Griffin Thursday, May 6, 2021 in Brentwood, Tenn. Jacob Alexander Griffin, who suffered from schizophrenia, died after a long and tense standoff with the Nashville police department's SWAT team. Police spokesman Don Aaron said an officer shot the 23-year-old after Griffin fired his gun twice.

After he fired his gun once, they approached him with police dogs and rubber bullets. When Griffin fired his gun again, police said, a SWAT officer fatally shot him.

Community leaders, as well as Griffin's family, said police de-escalation strategies were not appropriately designed to confront severe mental illness. Because of that, the activists said, the police tactics served only to intensify the confrontation.

Police officials said the officers tried for hours to reason with Griffin. They said the officers seemed to follow their training after he fired his gun.

Speaking to the crowd as a dark line of storms moved in, Krinks said Nashville needed to find new ways to work with people in the throes of a mental health crisis.

"The system is not working," she said. "It's not even broken. It is set up like this. This system is rigged against people who are in poverty, people with mental health issues ..."

a group of people walking down the street: Friends and family gather for a vigil to honor Jacob Griffin Thursday, May 6, 2021 in Brentwood, Tenn. Jacob Alexander Griffin, who suffered from schizophrenia, died after a long and tense standoff with the Nashville police department's SWAT team. Police spokesman Don Aaron said an officer shot the 23-year-old after Griffin fired his gun twice. © George Walker IV / The Tennessean Friends and family gather for a vigil to honor Jacob Griffin Thursday, May 6, 2021 in Brentwood, Tenn. Jacob Alexander Griffin, who suffered from schizophrenia, died after a long and tense standoff with the Nashville police department's SWAT team. Police spokesman Don Aaron said an officer shot the 23-year-old after Griffin fired his gun twice.

Mental health crises have complicated multiple deadly interactions with police this year. City leaders have acknowledged the need to improve their response to mental health crises.

Mayor John Cooper promised $1 million to fund better counseling and mental health services. Police Chief John Drake announced an upcoming plan to pair patrol officers with counselors for mental health calls.

Police and city leaders say change is imminent. But on May 1, while SWAT officers talked with Griffin, police said none of the counselors who responded to the scene spoke to him.

Griffin's allies said they would lift up his example to push for better conditions.

Before they could discuss much Thursday, though, dangerous storms forced the vigil to end after only a few minutes.

They carried candles to their car, promising to continue the conversation online. They left a pile of flowers behind, along a message written in yellow chalk on the pavement: "Rest in Peace."

Reach Adam Tamburin at 615-726-5986 and atamburin@tennessean.com. Follow him on Twitter @tamburintweets.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Activists honor police shooting victim at rain-soaked vigil: 'We have to do better'

AdChoices
AdChoices

More from The Tennessean (Nashville)

The Tennessean (Nashville)
The Tennessean (Nashville)
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon