Officer says he apologized to prisoner|[2/4/05]

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 4, 2005

A Vicksburg police officer accused of assaulting a shackled prisoner says he has apologized and enrolled in stress management classes.

Officer Clay Griffin, assigned to transfer duty for people in custody, was suspended without pay Wednesday pending a termination hearing that has been tentatively scheduled for Thursday before the Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

In statements made to investigators, Griffin explained what happened, saying he became angered at the prisoner, Joseph Parson, after comments were made threatening to sexually assault Griffin’s wife.

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Griffin stated that he pulled Parson out of a holding cell at the Vicksburg Police Department and “tussled” with him for a moment before returning Parson to the cell, according to a statement taken by Sgt. Mike Bryant.

“According to Officer Griffin, Parson stated he was going to take Officer Griffin’s sidearm and kill him with it as soon as the chains and shackles were removed from him.

“At the Warren County Jail, several jailers were summoned to stand by while the restraints were removed from Parson and Deputy Randy Lewis spoke to Parson at length to calm him down,” Bryant wrote.

According to reports, Parson did not require medical attention, but told investigators he suffered injuries including a scrape to his ankle, swelling in his right wrist and a scratch on his stomach.

Parson, 26, 2607 Hannah Ave., has been held in the Warren County Jail since Nov. 20, charged with robbery of the Rite-Aid at 3046 Indiana Ave. He was also serving five years’ supervised probation following a 2004 conviction for assaulting a jailer.

According to the assault indictment, Parson bit a Warren County jailer on the arm. In 2000, he was also charged with grand larceny and in 1998 Parson was sentenced to three years in prison for burglary.

Police Chief Tommy Moffett said he did not know about Parson’s previous convictions, but said they would not be a factor in the investigation.

While the department has not officially made its recommendation to the city board, Deputy Police Chief Richard O’Bannon did recommend to Moffett that Griffin be fired.

“Although Officer Griffin realizes what he did was wrong and has taken action to help him deal with some of his problems, the offense committed is a serious one,” O’Bannon wrote in his report. “If officer Griffin is allowed to stay on the job, he may go the remainder of his career without another such incident, but can we as protectors of the public take that chance?”

Griffin has been with the Vicksburg Police Department since 1987 and his attorney, Travis T. Vance Jr., said Griffin has been doing the work of two police officers, transporting nearly 250 prisoners since October.

Vance said policies at the department have left the city short on officers and resulted in unnecessarily stressful work conditions for the officers. He said that any disciplinary action by the city would be appealed.

Under Civil Service Rules, police disciplinary actions must be reviewed by the city board. If a punitive recommendation is upheld, an officer then has the right to appeal to the Civil Service Commission, which may uphold, reverse or amend the city’s decision.

The next appeal would be to Warren County Circuit Court.