JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In the minutes between an officer fatally shooting drug suspect and other police arriving at the scene earlier this month, two of the three undercover Jacksonville Sheriff's Office detectives were recorded discussing getting rid of cans of beer that were inside the car.
Officers Lance Griffis, Bryan Turner and Kyle Kvies were arrested last Thursday and charged with tampering with evidence and conspiracy and placed on leave without pay. Sheriff Mike Williams said he was processing the termination of the officers.
Williams said the detectives removed three cans of beer from their undercover vehicle after the shooting the night of Feb. 6. Williams said the vehicle had become a crime scene and removal of anything that could be considered evidence is against the law.
According to the police report obtained by News4Jax on Tuesday, the officer bought six 16-ounce beers that night, although only four were found in a ditch where Kvies later showed investigators he put the cans.
According to a transcript of the officers' conversation recorded that night:
Kvies: “Hey, get all the beer?”
Turner: “Yesh, get rid of that s***.”
Kvies: “Yeah, I will. How far I got to go with these beers?’
Turner: “As far as you can.”
Kvies: “We’re good. I got rid of them all.”
Griffis: “Are there any in back?”
Kvies: “No. I don’t know. Let me check. Look in the back good.”
Williams said under JSO guidelines, undercover officers can use alcohol as props, but not drink on the job. He said last week that at least one of the beers had been opened.
Griffis, 33, has been with the Sheriff's Office for 11 years; Turner, 48, for nine years; and Kvies, 26, for three years. The officers were arrested, then released on their own recognizance.
Williams couldn't say if any of the officers had been drinking because no blood-alcohol tests were given that night, since there was nothing at the time to indicate they had an open container of beer in the car.
According to police accounts from that night, Turner fired seven times at 22-year-old Jerome Allen, a drug suspect who pointed a what appeared to be a gun through the open passenger window of the undercover police car parked on West 5th Street just before 10 p.m.
Allen died that night at UF Health Jacksonville. It turned out what Allen had in his hand was a replica gun.
In addition to the criminal charges, the three officers will go before the Sheriff's Office Response to Resistance Board and have a chance to tell their sides of the story.
After the arrests, 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.
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. 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.
A second man who was involved in the undercover drug buy that led to the shooting was arrested, charged with possession of cocaine, and could face more charges.