Kenneth Detwyler Jr.
MIDDLEBURG – A Clay County Sherriff’s Office Lieutenant was involved in a shooting just before midnight on Sunday, the first officer-involved shooting in Clay County since 2012.
CCSO Lt. Shawn Gordon shot Timothy Van Griffin, 33, of Jacksonville during a traffic stop near the intersection of Primrose Avenue and Alligator Boulevard in Middleburg.
According to Sherriff Rick Beseler, who held a news media briefing May 31, Gordon attempted to conduct a traffic stop of Griffin’s pickup truck. At some point during the stop, Griffin put his vehicle into reverse and began backing into Gordon’s direction. In order to avoid being pinned between his patrol car and the truck door, Gordon climb onto the back of Griffin’s vehicle and fired an unknown amount of shots at Griffin who was still behind the wheel. The vehicle continued in reverse until it hit Gordon’s police cruiser.
Griffin was taken to Orange Park Medical Center, where he remains. He is listed in critical condition and is stabilized. Lt. Gordon was not injured in the incident.
It is still unknown if Griffin was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Gordon, who’s been with the CCSO for 18 years, has no prior disciplinary record, internal investigations, or other shootings associated with him.
Griffin has an extensive criminal record in Clay County dating back to 2003. In January 2013, he was arrested under similar circumstances, when he attempted to flee Clay County deputies. In that case, Griffin was apprehended and charged with grand theft auto, resisting an officer without violence, driving on a suspended license and possession of cocaine.
“I believe that we are very fortunate at this point, that we are not planning the funeral for a deputy that could have been killed in this incident,” Beseler said. “I think it reinforces the fact that the public needs to know, that in order to avoid being shot by a police officer, simply comply with that officer’s order, if that happened in this case we believe that no shooting would have occurred.”
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is handling the investigation of the shooting, which is standard protocol for the CCSO. The state’s investigation is expected to take four to five weeks to complete. When that investigation is complete, the CCSO will begin its own criminal investigation of Griffin and conduct an interview with Gordon concerning the incident. Gordon has not issued a statement in relation to the incident and does not have to. He likely wouldn’t make that decision until he confers with his legal counsel.
Gordon, who’s been on administrative leave since the shooting, is expected to return to work next week. He is also expected to return to his regular patrol duties.
The incident was not captured on dash camera or surveillance footage. In recent officer-involved shootings, police body cameras have been able to provide a glimpse into the tense moments of a shooting, however that technology is not utilized at CCSO.
“I have never seen a body worn camera that could accurately depict what the five senses a human being has when they’re in a situation like that, I think in many cases, body-worn cameras cause more questions than they give answers,” Beseler said. “I’m not a big believer in body cameras.”
This most recent incident is also noteworthy, for being in close proximity of where Detective David White was slain during an officer-involved shooting in 2012.
“I don’t want to say that Alligator Boulevard is a bad area in Clay County, it’s no worse than many other rural areas,” Beseler said. “Not many street lights and not a lot of people.”
White was killed in an exchange of gunfire with Ted Tilley, a known methamphetamine cook who was killed in the drug raid at the Alligator Boulevard home. On November 24, 2014, Fourth Circuit Court Judge Don Lester sentenced Ryan Christopher Wilder to two consecutive life sentences for the deaths of Tilley and White.
Further questions regarding the Griffin shooting, Gordon’s actions, and the initial traffic stop, are expected to be answered once the FDLE’s investigation is complete.