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Detective who killed suspect pointing fake gun had 8 complaints

Sheriff says officers removed beer cans from undercover car after shooting

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The undercover officer who fired seven times, killing a drug suspect who was holding what turned out to be a fake gun, had been written up eight times by the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office internal affairs office.

Bryan Turner, along with detectives Lance Griffis and Kyle Kvies, were arrested Thursday on charges of tampering with evidence and conspiracy. Sheriff Mike Williams stripped them of their police authority and placed them on administrative leave without pay.

News4Jax obtained a summary of Turner's employment history, which includes discipline for excessive force (letter placed in personnel file), twice investigated for conduct unbecoming an officer (formal counseling), improper action (letter in personnel file), failure to conform to work standards (written reprimand), two chargeable traffic crashes (written reprimand, formal counseling, remedial training) and a vehicle incident (formal counseling, remedial training).

Williams said the detectives removed three cans of beer from their undercover vehicle Feb. 6 before investigators arrived to investigate the police-involved shooting that killed 22-year-old Jerome Allen. Williams said the vehicle had become a crime scene, and removal of anything that could be considered evidence is against the law.

"These officers committed a criminal act, contaminated a crime scene," Williams said.

Griffis, 33, has been with the Sheriff's Office for 11 years; Turner, 48, for 9 years; and Kvies, 26, for 3 years. The were arrested, then released on their own recognizance. They are scheduled to be arraigned on March 9.

The attorney for the Fraternal Order of Police said each of three arrested officers will hire their own attorney. News4Jax learned Hank Coxe, who has handled high-profile police cases in the past, will represent one of the men.

There's no word yet on when the officers will appear in court on the criminal charges, and the police shooting will be reviewed by the State Attorney's Office. The three will also go before the Sheriff's Office Response to Resistance Board and have a chance to tell their sides of the story. 

"Now these officers, because of the shooting, will face the RTR board and have to explain the justification for the shooting," News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said. "Even though they had alcohol and moved it, it still doesn’t take away their right to defend themselves. So they will review that separately from them having that open container. But I don’t think that will come into play. To review the shooting, they are looking at what led up to the shooting, explaining their actions to justify the shooting."

Under JSO guidelines, undercover officers can use alcohol as props, but cannot drink on the job. 

Williams couldn't say if that officer had been drinking because no blood alcohol tests were given that night, since there was nothing to indicate they had an open container of beer in the car.

According to JSO personnel records, a December 2016 citizen complaint against Kvies for failure to conform to work standards was sustained, and he was given informal counseling.

Griffis was investigated in July 2012 after a citizen complaint of false arrest. That ended with an information letter placed in his personnel file. Griffis was also given informal counseling and remedial training after a July 2016 accident in a police vehicle.

Smith said it's normal that officers on the job will accumulate complaints in their personnel file.

"It depends on if it's founded or not. You can just put handcuffs on some people too tightly and hurt her wrist and then they could file a complaint of excessive force," Smith said. "Or they could be justified. Maybe they did that (to) somebody too many times, or (were) abusive toward someone. That's why you need to look in detail at it."

Police union defends 3 detectives arrested

After the sheriff announced that three of his own officers had been arrested, Fraternal Order of Police President Steve Zona asked the public to withhold judgment of the detectives until all the facts of the case are known.

Zona believes that the arrests were premature, saying the sheriff should have waited until the investigation was complete. 

"Even the sheriff said that they are (allowed) to have those props in cars because our detective work is a very dangerous area, and they have to fit in. The people they deal with have to believe they are not police officers. That is why they carry those props," Zona said. “The night of the shooting, these detectives spoke with a staff member, an appointed staff member from the Sheriff staff and lieutenants, sergeants and the very detectives that reported the issue with the beer can and not one of them, not a single person that had contact with those detectives that night say that they smelled of alcoholic beverages, said they showed any kinds of impairment, and that would've come out with all the people they spoke to, and that didn't happen."

Zona said that if they removed the alcohol from the car, it was a bad decision, but it should have been handled as a departmental violation, not a criminal act.

“I would've personally rather have seen them finish the investigation first -- the entire investigation -- instead of rushing to something like this," Zona said.

Zona added that the officers' reactions after the fact may have have been altered based on the traumatic event, in which one of them had just taken a life in self-defense. 

"That was more stress in one night than most people experience in their entire life. When they have a pistol pointed at them, after an incident like that, it is scientifically proven your brain doesn't process things the way a normal person does. You're trying to catch up and process what just occurred," Zona said.

Randy Reep, an attorney not affiliated with the case, said he believes there are two arguments against that theory. 

WATCH: Attorney weighs in on case

"These are professional narcotics detectives that are trained in that very thing. And two, you and I may react emotionally to an event in a very odd way, that is certainly understandable, but it would be very odd for you me and your cameraman to all react the same way to this unusual stress. So being in an altered state of mind where three people get together to cover something up, that loses a little bit of that genuineness there if we are all behaving in concert," Reep said.

The FOP plans to support the officers in their legal defense and fight to keep their jobs. It will be up to the officers whether they'll seek counsel at FOP or hire their own attorneys. 

Reep said the friction between FOP and JSO that has been caused by the arrests is a good thing. 

"Sheriff Williams, there's not a whole lot of guys with a lot more integrity at all in holding people to task. The union's job is also to hold Sheriff Williams and the police department to a standard, to bring charges, or termination, or otherwise against their officers. There is a natural conflict there, and the cool thing about conflict, we are probably able to resolve what are the actual facts -- good or bad," Reep said.

About the Author:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.