DEMOPOLIS, Ala. – A county prosecutor was shot in the face in rural western Alabama on Thursday before officers fatally wounded the suspect: a former state trooper who once was questioned in another shooting.
Greg Griggers, the district attorney for Alabama’s 17th Judicial Circuit, suffered a facial wound in the shooting, which occurred in downtown Demopolis, District Attorney Michael Jackson said.
“Griggers got shot in the face and they killed the ex-state trooper who shot him,” Jackson told AL.com.
The popular prosecutor was treated for his injuries and released from the hospital later in the day.
A nearby drug task force investigator from Griggers’ office opened fire and killed the assailant, Jackson said.
The suspect was identified as former Alabama state trooper Steven Smith Jr., who was questioned about a shooting at the home of Circuit Judge Eddie Hardaway Jr. in 1996 while he was still working for the state. No one was ever charged in the shooting at the judge’s home.
“It is the same trooper [from] all those years ago. My agents with the [4th Judicial Circuit] drug task force have been down there for a few hours and they say it’s definitely him,” Jackson said. “I asked them if they were 100 percent sure it’s him and they said they are.”
Smith Jr. reportedly fired several rounds from a shotgun before he was shot and killed by law enforcement officers who had just finished having lunch with Griggers, according to Tuscaloosa News.
It was just after 12:45 p.m. on the main street of Marengo County’s largest city, populated with banks, boutiques, restaurants and small businesses, when Demopolis police say Smith Jr. began firing shots across the street at the district attorney.
“It’s very, very shocking,” said Capt. Jason Roberts with Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s State Bureau of Investigation.
Smith Jr. was hired in February 1982 as a state trooper and fired in 1996, AL.com reported.
On February 23, 1996, police said an unidentified person fired two rounds into Hardaway’s home. No one was hurt in the incident.
Smith Jr. was questioned by investigators, but wasn’t arrested or detained. The man was fired from his job as a trooper in July 1996 for publicly criticizing investigators looking into the shooting, reported WSFA.
In a WBRC story from February 1997, an assistant state Attorney General said a grand jury was still investigating the shooting, but was on a one-year recess.
WBRC has found no record that grand jury ever took any action in the case and calls to Judge Hardaway and the Attorney General’s office have not been returned.
Smith Jr. also ran for Sumter County Sheriff in 1998. He lost to then-Sheriff Johnny Hatter.
Jackson said it was not immediately clear why Griggers was shot, but an investigation was underway. He said it appeared Griggers was being targeted.
“The guy was waiting,” Jackson said. “It looks like he was waiting to shoot.”
UPDATE: An SBI Investigator on the scene confirms Griggers was sitting in his vehicle outside his office in downtown Demopolis when he was ambushed. Another law enforcement officer shot the suspect. The suspect is dead on the scene. https://t.co/ioko2DgvNV
— Chelsea Barton (@ChelseaBarton_) November 15, 2018
First appointed to the position in 2003 and re-elected since, Griggers is the chief prosecutor for Marengo, Greene, and Sumter counties along the Mississippi state line.
U.S. Attorney Jay Town released the following statement after learning of the shooting: “Our thoughts and prayers are with Greg and his family. District Attorney Griggers is a dedicated public servant and an honorable man. This serves as yet another reminder of the perils and dangers that law enforcement at every level face daily.”
“I just ask that you keep the DA in your thoughts and prayers at this time,” Demopolis Police Chief Tommie Reese said at a news conference held Thursday afternoon. “His family is very important to us and he’s important to our circuit.
“This is a heinous crime and the city of Demopolis will do everything we can to get it resolved.”