Controversy over Alto officer involved shooting investigation - KYTX CBS 19 Tyler Longview News Weather Sports

Controversy over Alto officer involved shooting investigation

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TYLER (KYTX) - A new twist in the case of an East Texas police officer allegedly fatally shooting a man nearly a month ago. 

Monday night, family and friends of Eric Griffin, the man killed in the shooting, took their concerns to the Alto City Council.

At the city council meeting, we learned the family is upset about a racial slur that was allegedly said by the officer involved in the shooting.

The Alto Police Chief confirms he's heard about the comment allegedly made by Alto Police Officer Brandon Smith, where he refers to Eric Griffin, using the "n word." Smith is the officer accused of shooting and killing Griffin.

Monday night, Griffin's family voiced concerns about the slur, and told the council they just want the investigation to be fair.

Rev. Herman Martin, who is a representative for Griffin's family, addressed the council. 

"What's going to happen?" he said. "Everybody's going to put up their arms and start fighting because they cant trust their police officers?"

On January 23, police say Eric Griffin, who is a known schizophrenic, was involved in an aggravated robbery, where he stole cigarettes and flashed a machete at the clerk. Family members say Griffin used the machete during work to cut trees. Griffin was shot soon after the incident.

"Everyone knew that Eric would not harm a fly," Martin said.

Griffin's family and friends complained to the city council Monday about Brandon Smith, the officer accused of shooting him.

Rev. Martin refers to a recent incident when Officer Smith was caught saying racial slurs over the radio.

Martin tells CBS 19, "He did that talking on his cell phone but he was unaware that his police monitor was on and it was heard all over Cherokee County departments."

At the meeting, the Alto Police Chief confirmed that he was aware of the incident. Martin says Smith's racial slur demonstrates bad judgment - something the city's attorney agreed with.

"What you talked about, the radio transmission, that's not acceptable," he told Martin. "It shouldn't be acceptable anywhere. I agree with you."

Martin says he hopes the council understands why he and the community are upset, and that there will be a fair investigation of what happened on January 23.

Smith will stay on administrative leave until the Texas Rangers finish their investigation.

The Alto City Attorney told Martin and the rest of the crowd, "When we get the investigation back, we'll all be able to look at it and see if you're right or perhaps the gentleman had some fault in this matter. We're going to do a lot more, and that's part of being fair. You said you wanted fair and I agree with that."

The Texas Ranger's investigation will last for about 30 - 45 more days. The mayor has agreed to talk with Martin again, if he has further concerns.

Alto Police are not able to comment on this issue because the investigation has been handed over to the Texas Rangers.  

Officer Smith was put on administrative leave immediately after the incident, which is standard protocol.

 

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