Officer gives Jacksonville man second chance
Officer: 20-year-old attacked, grabbed gun
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It's a story that starts with a 911 call to police and ends with forgiveness and a second chance.
It began when Jacksonville Sheriff's Officer Grant Bowlus rushed to a Westside neighborhood on December 15, 2014, in response to a homeowner's call for help.
Caller: "I just got out of work and some kid just ran through my house and he jumped the fence. He was in my neighbor's yard and I ran after him, I ran up to him and said, 'What the hell is going on? Why did you come in my house?' And he is jumping up and down acting all weird."
UNCUT: Listen to 911 call
The caller didn't know the man who ran through his home, but later found out it was a young man named Greg. Officer Bowlus, the first officer on the scene, arrived within minutes and spotted the man.
"When I first saw him [Greg], he did 10 push ups, making eye contact with me," he explained.
Bowlus said the 20-year-old jumped into the back of his cruiser.
"He's just yelling, "Now is my time, now is my time," said Bowlus. "I tried to get his hands on the car to pat him down and he just took two full swings at me."
According to Bowlus, Greg was uncontrollable.
"He was punching, kicking, scratching," described Bowlus.
For the first time in his nine years as an officer, Bowlus decided he needed to use his Taser. In fact, he used it six times in one minute, but it didn't stop Greg. It malfunctioned after the sixth time.
"He was vicious," Bowlus added.
Bowlus managed to get out a call on his police radio: "Give me 10-33 (officer needs assistance). Need an officer 10-18 (this location). Got one fighting. Got one tased. He's still fighting!" [Hear radio transmission]
Greg tried to grab Bowlus' gun, and the officer admits he was moments away from using that gun and pulling the trigger.
"He looks like a small frame guy, but that day he was a rabid wolf," said Bowlus.
Bowlus said the shooting would have likely been ruled justified, because his life was in danger and he tried all other options to subdue Greg.
Over the past year, News4Jax has reported on dozens of cases where suspects have died in the hands of police across the county: The deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray and Walter Scott caused tension and even riots.
This story could have easily ended with an unarmed man being shot by police, but the fight took a different turn. Two neighbors ran to the rescue. They helped Officer Bowlus get Greg under control and into handcuffs.
"I can tell you, if those two people hadn't stepped in, he [Greg] probably wouldn't be standing there, and maybe I wouldn't either," said Bowlus.
The officer wanted Greg to pay for what he did and police took the case to the State Attorney.
"I said 'crucify him,'" Bowlus explained. "Because he almost took me from my family."
But here's the twist. Officer Bowlus and Greg are no longer enemies.
"He seems like a very friendly guy. Like a teddy bear or bald Santa," Greg chuckled in an interview with News4Jax's Vic Micolucci months later.
The reason the two are now friends is because of a letter Greg sent to Bowlus days after his arrest.
Greg read part of the letter, "I would like to formally apologize for my actions displayed on that day. Many people say I should've died in this encounter and after reading the report numerous times, I agree. It was well within your rights to do worse harm to me but you didn't. My life was literally in your hands that day and you spared me."
DOCUMENT: Read entire letter
No one told Greg to write the letter, he said he decided to do it on his own. He had no idea the effect it would have.
"It's just the way I was raised," said Greg. "When you do something wrong, you take ownership of it and apologize basically. It's just, I felt very remorseful, regretful, sorrowful."
That apology letter went a long way because Officer Bowlus changed his mind completely.
"He's a good guy. Bad decision, good guy," he said.
Bowlus set up a meeting with the prosecutor and Greg. Both Greg and Bowlus brought their families. Greg talked about how his younger brother had just drowned. He talked about how he had to leave the military for medical reasons and then fell into a deep depression.
"I just came back home, I'm in my room, [my brother and I] shared the same room you know, we had bunk beds, I just made a bad decision," Greg said.
Greg decided to take LSD for the first time.
"He [Greg] comes from a phenomenal family," said Bowlus. "He's been through enough. His mother already lost one kid, why lose two? I think this a much healthier way to handle it."
Greg was facing five years in prison for what he did. Battery on a law enforcement officer is a felony.
"Based on the facts of this case, I was prepared to prosecute as much as I could for that," said 4th Judicial Circuit Assistant State Attorney Hector Murcia-Bustos.
But Bowlus asked the prosecutor to give him a break. So the Assistant State Attorney agreed Greg deserved mercy and put him in a program where he'll have to do community service and talk to people about what he did. With this pre-trial diversion program, Greg will not be a felon and will not spend any time behind bars.
"Officer Bowlus right here forgave me and I'm very fortunate, by the grace of God he forgave me," said Greg.
"I feel great about it," said Bowlus. "And I don't want any pats on the back. The forgiveness thing was between the good Lord, me and Greg."
This tale of two men on separate sides of the law ends with two lives changed for the better.
"Right now I'm working, I'm in school trying to better myself, hopefully one day get back in the Air Force. I'm trying to go in as officer this time. we'll see how that goes," said Greg.
This was the first and only time Greg was arrested. If he holds up his end of the deal and completes the State Attorney's diversion program, he won't have a criminal record. He said after he gets out of the military, he wants to be a police detective and make the most of his second chance on life.
EDITOR'S NOTE: News4Jax intentionally left Greg's last name out of the story to protect his family's privacy and preserve his aspirations of getting a good job in the future.
Copyright 2015 by News4Jax.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.