Photographer Who Was Shot by Deputy Who Mistook Tripod for Rifle Had Been Warned About His Behavior Before

Photographer Who Was Shot by Deputy Who Mistook Tripod for Rifle Had Been Warned About His Behavior Before

Andy Grimm, the photographer who was shot after a deputy mistook his tripod for a rifle, had been warned about his behavior near police in the past, records show. 

You might remember Grimm, who is currently in the midst of a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Clark County Sheriff's Department and Deputy Jacob Shaw, who shot him. A grand jury recently declined to bring charges against the deputy. Previously, the department had declined to comment, but a records request by the Associated Press recently found that his presence and behavior around police officers had been called into question in the past.

In one such incident in spring 2017, Sergeant Robert Trimble says he was parked in a police-only lot at night when he saw a vehicle he didn't recognize. He then got out of his car when someone “quickly darted” toward him, causing him to unholster his gun. When he recognized Grimm, he told him: “Andy, what are you doing? I had my duty weapon out! You can’t run up on our cars!”

Further records show that another deputy told investigators he found Grimm's behavior at a traffic stop in January 2017 inappropriate, when Grimm circled the stop twice slowly before eventually stopping. Another sergeant said he warned the photographer after a traffic stop in 2016, though it's not clear what behavior caused the warning then. Major Andy Reynolds mentioned to investigators that “other deputies have expressed issues with Grimm." Reynolds could not remember which deputies had concerns or what those were. Sheriff Deborah Burchett declined comment, though she did tell investigators that "other deputies from the department may have cautioned Grimm in the past on such behavior of poor tactics." However, she could not name the specifics of those incidents.

On the other hand, Grimm and his father, co-owners of KBA News, LLC, insist that they "have only received positive comments" from the department in the past, though they have been struggling to get news-related information from the department since the shooting. And of course, the issue of how the First Amendment balances with Grimm's alleged behavior around police remains to be solved by the courts.

Lead image by Scott Davidson, used under Creative Commons.

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35 Comments

mark mil's picture

WOW. I realize that being an officer is hard job. Harder in bigger cities, harder in the US. But just because he may have been warned in the past doesn't mean that the officer had a right to shoot him? No obligation to find out what was going on first? He didn't shoot him as he ran up on the car, as the other officer explained.
Being an officer is an uncomfortable job, and they aren't expected to put their lives at risk for no good reason, but shooting before asking questions is an age old cliche that should be used to teach officer to be a little more reserved with their firearms.
AND, thanks for the update!

It sounds like you believe he was shot because he was warned in the past for similar behavior. Like a retaliatory shooting. I think the point of this article is that he has been warned in the past that this type of behavior is unacceptable due to the perceived risk to the officers who will defend themselves - and that persisting in such behavior is likely to get him hurt. If you see a child reaching towards a hot stove, do you warn them or just let them do it? In this case, he's received tons of warnings (thankfully) but for this particular instance, there was no opportunity to warn and he got the equivalent of a burned hand.

mark mil's picture

Fair comment.
I'm not sure if there was intent, more like justification after the fact.
Running up on an officer is most certainly risky. Setting up a parking lot away or watching an officer is less risky. Or, at least, should be.
But, as my mom used to say, better to be alive than dead right.

wow, what an interestin situation, I even don't know what to say(

Leigh Miller's picture

Alex...sheesh

Not liking the takeaway from this article. Far too many people are being injured or killed by police who claim that they were:

1) In fear for their lives
2) Convinced the victim had a wepon

There are people who track police interactions with the public and they film, record audio and photograph law enforcement to ensure that they themselves comply with the laws and report them with evidence when they step out of their authority.

I think at the very least an individual with a badge and sidearm should have enough common sense and temperament to handle situations as you describe without taking their guns out of the holster.

P.S. my sister was in law enforcement for over 20+ years before starting her own security company. Your article is really missing a lot of information...are you a news organization or a photography website??

Alex Cooke's picture

Not really sure what takeaway you think I'm trying to provide or what information is missing. I reported the new information in the case as reported by the Akron Beacon Journal, which you can read here: https://www.ohio.com/akron/news/ohiocentric/records-deputies-warned-ohio.... If that information shades the case in a certain way, that's a consequence of the information, not some takeaway I provided. In fact, previous articles I wrote on this shared information that certainly shaded the case in Grimm's favor.

Also realizing how the new information reframed the situation, I tempered it by mentioning that there's a real First Amendment issue here as well, as you're alluding to, and I also offered Grimm's rebuttal. Lastly, my personal opinion, particularly after seeing the footage of the shooting, is that the deputy acted hastily, irrationally, and unprofessionally, as I don't believe Grimm's behavior at that particular stop was threatening (even if it had been in the past). It's not my job to put that opinion in the article writeup, though, and I'm not a law enforcement expert or legal scholar. You seem to want me to frame the article in a way that agrees with your personal opinion on the matter, and while my personal opinion seems to generally match yours, the article itself is not the place to do that.

Leigh Miller's picture

OK let's start with the last bit Alex....If you are functioning as a news organization then you would be the worst. Not you personally of course...but FS. This was reported on many times since it happened.

If your gonna follow up on somebody else's reporting then for goodness sakes, add some value. What you stated in your last paragraph of the reply is the kind of useful info you could have included. There was a lot more you could have added..I'm sure you have heard photographers complain about being harassed by police either photographing/video recording them etc. Don't you guys have any advice on how to deal with those types of situations.. i.e. the relevant laws of the jurisdiction:

https://youtu.be/NmXqEnXGHqQ

https://youtu.be/YVZXCH6Vdnw

Just an example.

You either want to be a news org or a resource for photographers/etc...can't have it both ways dude.

Alex Cooke's picture

What I stated in the last paragraph of my reply was opinion, not information. Advice is beyond the scope of this article, which is reportage.

Michael DeStefano's picture

I believe you can, in fact, be a resource and a news source. I would argue that the vast majority of the internet works this way. Is fstoppers attempting to be the news covering stories with in-depth journalism? No That doesn't mean they cant draw the communities attention to these stories by reporting the info as becomes available.

Chris Slasor's picture

Leigh Miller, you are contradicting yourself, you are saying that Alex needs to be more like a trained Journalist, then you say that the final paragraph of his reply is the best bit, and that is opinion and not fact. That's not journalism, that's just what he personally thinks of the situation. I don't think anyone at F Stoppers would ever pretend that they are a news organisation. They are just drawing attention to relevant photography stories that are in the news to a community of photo and video professionals and enthusiasts. I think overall, they do a fantastic job, if you want more in depth news coverage, then search actual news agencies for their coverage of a story.

Leigh Miller's picture

No, I think you have a reading/comprehension problem.

My problem with articles like this is people get this false sense of fear. For every incident like this there is 100,000 people that have a positive interaction with the police while they are out taking pictures. Hell Id saying 1/10 times the police ask me what I'm up to. 9/10 times they are more interested in looking at my pictures (I've had a couple add me on Instagram).
If there are people that follow the police around and record what they do they should maybe stop doing that too. Their job is hard enough as it is. Having someone sitting there recording everything they do is just stressful and possibly dangerous.
I'm not a police officer but my job is what most people would consider dangerous and when my boss sits there and watches what I'm doing its stressful. Its even more stressful when a safety officer is watching what we are doing (to be honest there are times we just stop working till they leave).... Nothing to do with us actually doing something wrong but all it takes is one little misjudgment and it turns into a huge deal.
The point I am trying to make is that incidents like what is described in this article are extremely rare and people shouldnt really worry about it. I'd also say that maybe instead of just posting the article about what happened try to start a conversation about safety.

mark mil's picture

I agree, that having someone watch you makes the job harder. But, there is far too little oversight of the police and a lot of people are upset with the militarization of the police force (especially here in Canada). I don't have a problem with people watching - with the caveat that it has to be done safely and in a way that doesn't endanger the officers.

Leigh Miller's picture

+1 This.

Agreed.

Tell that to the family of the young man shot 20 times by trigger happy cops. His phone was mistaken for a pistol. He was also shot in the back. How do you justify that ? You can't. I dont know where you live, but where i live this type of incident happens to often. And without justification.

That is not justified. I'm not arguing that it is. You just need to realize that you dont hear about the tens of thousands of incidents that happen every day where the police do their job without incident. You only hear about the times they dont.
Lets look at this from a photographers point of view. There are over 2 million weddings per year in the USA. Of those 2 million weddings lets say 1 million of them have a wedding photographer. Of those how many stories do we hear of the wedding photographer messing up? Of all the wedding photographers I can guarantee a few that should not be doing that job since they are just about collecting a pay cheque. If things dont turn out a few times they shut down their business and move on.

Lance Bachelder's picture

I spent 9 years in the the military and was trained in the use of deadly force and many shoot/don't shoot situations. I'm not sure what kind of training cops get these days but there seems to be a lot of trigger happy folks getting jobs in law enforcement here in the US. If you can't tell the difference between a tripod and a rifle you probably should not be allowed to wear/use a gun. I also don't like the fact that many of the shooters get to keep their jobs after "I thought he had a gun" situations. That said, I do understand there's a lot of crazies out there and it's a tough era to be a cop.

Robert Nurse's picture

Anyone and everyone can get a gun these days. I forget the stat. But, it's like there's at least one gun for ever man, woman and child in the US! And cops have to operate under these conditions? It's time we set some priorities: gun ownership for everyone or cop safety.

There are over 100 million gun owners in the USA. Of the legal gun owners it is maybe a hundredth of a percent that actually commit crimes. You also say gun ownership for everyone but that is false too. You commit a crime you cant own a gun. You have mental issues you cant have a gun.
You say cop safety but can you show any proof that in areas where concealed carry is normal it is more dangerous for police officers? If anything it is actually safer for the police.
The majority of police are good people. The majority of gun owners are good people. Maybe instead of making blanket statements or trying to take away rights of the majority over the actions of the minority we should be looking at logical solutions and figuring out what is wrong with society.

Robert Nurse's picture

If a cops approaches every stop feeling that their lives are under threat is probably attributable to knowing that all these guns are on the street. People have gotten shot reaching for keys and wallets. Cell phones in hand are mistaken for weapons. Not to mention, cameras on tripods are mistaken for rifles. The news is full of such deadly errors. Castile was legally carrying and told the officer he was carrying and still got killed in an open-carry state. Proof of anything is hard to come by as studying the problem by the CDC has be squashed by Congress.

Leigh Miller's picture

This!

+1

I'm American but living in Canada's largest city taught me a few things. When stopped in my car automatically activate my Zoom H5 recorder and leave it on the seat next to me. I also turn on my cell camera. After I do those two things I never reach for anything else while talking to the police. From that moment on the only thing that moves is my mouth as I ask why I'm being stopped, or what laws I've broken.

mark mil's picture

The gun manufacturers are knowing participants in an illegal gun culture. Those guns that are for 'law abiding" citizens are intended to fall into the 'wrong' hands.
It's not the 'legal' gun owners that are the problem, it's what happens when those guns are owned by 'legal' gun owners that can't control their weapons.
And, in this case, that's almost every single gun used in a crime.
I'd also take exception to the 1/100 of a percent. Many domestics fall in the shadow of 'legal' gun ownership.

mark mil's picture

Sorry, I do agree though, there needs to be a neutral solution. It can't just be gun control. But it can't continue the way it is either.

Sarah Dugan's picture

Lance, T&P had a solid couple of article (one of which: https://taskandpurpose.com/marine-police-stephen-mader-settlement/) re: how, the training you receive in the military and that of the police don't often mix. Give those a read if you *really* want to shake your head...

Mr Hogwallop's picture

I think this is called the blue wall.

"Reynolds could not remember which deputies had concerns or what those were. Sheriff Deborah Burchett declined comment, though she did tell investigators that "other deputies from the department may have cautioned Grimm in the past on such behavior of poor tactics." However, she could not name the specifics of those incidents."

Robert Nurse's picture

"A grand jury recently declined to bring charges against the deputy."

A guaranty that civilian shootings will continue unabated. The word "civilian" seems to be losing its weight. Civilians don't and should not have to be trained in how to act around officers. Police academies, I thought, trained officers how to perform their duties around civilians.

Shoot first , ask questions later ? I would like to know how the officer knew who this man was ? How did he know the man had been warned in the past against such behavior ? Lastly , what do you do when you are in trouble and need help. You see a police car. Wouldnt you think it would be safe to run up to said officer if you were in need of help ? Maybe he should have crawled on all fours to the officer. There are far to many police shootings of inocent ,unarmed civillians imho.use of deadly force should be used appropriatly. How is a camera tripod mistaken for a gun ? Dont the police have to take an eye examination ? No i think they look for any reason to justify shooting a person. This is so wrong !!

Thanks for the update on the story.

You have to change policy to only fire when fired upon. If you cant follow this rule, find something else to do. Departments make it to easy to shoot people. And the majority of police articulate their lives were in danger. Until this changes, be careful you may be next in shooting gallery.

My question is would you be willing to be a police officer if the policy was "if the person shoots and doesnt kill you first then you get to return fire"? Like seriously read what you just posted.

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