Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

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January 24, 2013

Texas Rangers investigate death of man shot by Alto police officer

ALTO —

A man believed to be an ACCESS patient off his medication was shot and killed by an Alto police officer Wednesday evening after he apparently displayed a machete tucked in his waistband to a convenience store clerk as he stole a pack of cigarettes.

James Eric Griffin, 48, was a patient with Anderson Cherokee Community Enrichment Services, according to Alto resident Ironda Jenkins. The officer, Brandon Michael Smith, is on administrative leave with pay, based on Alto Police Department standard operating procedure, said Trooper Jean Dark, Texas Department of Public Safety public information officer.

At the conclusion of a Texas Ranger investigation, the report will be presented to the District Attorney, Dark said.

Jenkins said Griffin has lived in Alto all his life and used the machete for work. She said she managed to review the videotape of the incident at the Pick N Go at 100 S. Marcus Street before it was seized by authorities.

Additionally, Jenkins recorded her own interview about the incident with the store clerk on her HTC Windows Phone 8X cell phone. She shared that recording with reporters Thursday.

Jenkins said the videotape has no sound but shows Jenkins displaying the machete, taking the cigarettes and backing out of the store. She said it also shows another customer laying a $10 bill on the counter to cover the cost of the stolen cigarettes.

The other customer told Jenkins he asked the clerk to excuse the behavior of Griffin, who was acting strangely because he was off his meds, she said.

During the recorded interview, the clerk told Jenkins the victim was a regular at his store — someone he was fairly used to seeing every day. Sometimes, when the man lacked money for cigarettes, he would even let him have a pack and come back the next day with the money, the clerk told Jenkins.

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