Ex-Alabama trooper shoots DA in face, is killed by police

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Police - Ex-Alabama Trooper Shoots DA in Face, is Killed by Authorities

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

A west Alabama district attorney on Thursday survived what authorities are calling an “ambush-style shooting” by an unlikely suspect -- a former state trooper, who was subsequently killed by police.

Steven Smith Jr. was shot dead by officers who had just eaten lunch with Greg Griggers, the district attorney for the 17th Judicial Circuit, according Capt. Jason Roberts, of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency's State Bureau of Investigation. The 17th Judicial Circuit includes Marengo, Greene and Sumter counties.

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"It's very, very shocking," Roberts said during a news conference Thursday.

Roberts said the shooting took place around 12:45 p.m. on the main street in Demopolis, Marengo County’s biggest city. Griggers and the officers had returned to his office after eating at a nearby café.

The Tuscaloosa News reported that as Griggers opened the door of his truck to exit it, Smith began firing at him with a shotgun from across the street. The two officers with the district attorney fired back, killing the 60-year-old former trooper.

Griggers, 52, was struck in the face, WVTM 13 News in Birmingham reported. His wounds were minor and he was treated and released from a hospital.

Roberts said that Smith, who was hired as a trooper in 1982, was fired in 1996. The News reported that while still a trooper, Smith was investigated after two shotgun blasts were fired into the home of 17th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Eddie Hardaway.

AL.com reported that Hardaway was the first black judge to preside over the 17th Judicial Circuit.

Smith at that time owned a white Mitsubishi that matched witnesses' descriptions of the shooter's car, AL.com said. Smith was also called before a special grand jury to testify.

The then-trooper complained publicly and to the news media about the handling of that investigation, which the News reported included authorities questioning his then-girlfriend. He was fired after speaking to reporters about the case, AL.com said.

The case was ultimately dismissed in 1997 after the grand jury was dismantled.

The News reported that Smith’s termination was upheld by the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals. Roberts said Smith’s records show he was not eligible for rehire.

The motive for Griggers’ shooting was not yet known, the investigator said.

"We're very early in this investigation," Roberts said. "All we know at this point is that the district attorney was fired upon in an ambush-style shooting and we will be investigating it as an independent investigation."

Watch Thursday’s news conference below, courtesy of WTOK-TV.

Demopolis Police Chief Tommie Reese asked that residents keep Griggers, who has served as district attorney since 2003, in their prayers.

"His family is very important to us, and he's important to our circuit," Reese said. "This is a heinous crime and the city of Demopolis will do everything we can to get it resolved."

The crime was an oddity for Demopolis, which the 2010 U.S. Census put at just under 7,500 residents. Reese said, however, that a shooting of a public official can happen anywhere in America.

"We're kind of shocked that it happened in the city of Demopolis," Reese said. "We don't know the motive behind this case right now."

The chief said that Griggers, who he’s known for 20 years or longer, has been a great friend and prosecutor, but the job of district attorney can sometimes make a person some enemies.

"Otherwise, beyond that, Greg is a great person in the community," Reese said. "He's well liked, well respected."

Jay E. Town, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, sent his thoughts and prayers to Griggers and his family.

"District Attorney Griggers is a dedicated public servant and an honorable man," Town said in a statement. "This serves as yet another reminder of the perils and dangers that law enforcement at every level face daily."

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