Man suspected of shooting at cars on road to Zion remains in critical condition, has criminal history

HURRICANE — The man police suspect of leading them on a chase Wednesday from Hurricane to Rockville, shooting at other vehicles along the way, remains in critical condition at St. George Regional Hospital as of Thursday afternoon after he shot himself in the head at the end of the chase, police say.

Washington County Critical Incident Task Force spokesperson Lt. David Crouse speaks to the media at the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Hurricane, Utah, Oct. 7, 2021 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

St. George News has also learned that the suspect, 55-year-old Shannon Alan Griffin of Rockville, had a long criminal history before moving to Southern Utah that included holding his family hostage while setting his home on fire and being profiled on television’s “America’s Most Wanted” after running over his landlord with a car.

During a press conference Thursday afternoon at the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Hurricane, Washington County Critical Incident Task Force spokesperson Lt. David Crouse said it has been determined that the person fleeing the scene in Rockville shot at 10 vehicles. And it was a stroke of luck that those shootings only resulted in minor injuries.

“This could have had catastrophic consequences, and people were extremely lucky. There were some very close calls,” Crouse said.

The worst of the injuries were cuts from glass shattered by the bullets, but no one was actually getting shot, although Crouse said one person had a bullet go clear through their shirt.

“They had luck on their side, fate, you call it whatever you want to. But the fact of the matter is they all passed very close by to a lot of these individuals,” he said.

A car seen after it was shot at during a pursuit between police agencies and a suspect on SR-9, Rockville, Utah, Oct. 6, 2021 | Photo by Ron Chaffin, St. George News

Crouse didn’t have many details on Griffin’s condition at the hospital, other than that he remained in critical condition. He said while officers did shoot at the suspect, Griffin’s only wound was self-inflicted.

Crouse also confirmed Griffin’s past criminal history beyond the Southern Utah area.

“There is some criminal history that we have located at this point,” Crouse said. “We’re not going to go into the specifics of it. As we said, it is an ongoing investigation, and some of those elements may be part of the criminal investigation.”

According to records, Griffin has lived in Southern Utah since 2018.

Before that, Griffin had lived in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and was convicted of aggravated assault in two incidents.

According to The Chattanoogan, in July 2002, Griffin pled guilty to holding his wife, two children and four other family members hostage. After freeing the family members, he had a one-hour standoff with a SWAT team where the home was ignited, and he came out after the flames became intense. As part of a plea agreement, the arson charges were dropped, and he served two years in prison.

Four years later, in November 2006, The Chattanoogan reports Griffin was convicted again – this time for running over his landlord multiple times with a car after he was evicted. 

Griffin was on the run from authorities for a month and featured in a 2005 episode of “America’s Most Wanted” before turning himself in.

Washington County Attorney Eric Clarke is seen during a press conference at the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Hurricane, Utah, Oct. 7, 2021 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

The jury in the landlord case convicted him of aggravated assault but was unable to reach a verdict on a first-degree murder charge. He was ultimately sentenced to three to 15 years in prison.

Crouse said Griffin was also on the radar for law enforcement in Washington County, though not necessarily for criminal reasons. 

“As far as related to local involvement, none of them would have given any lead that an incident like this would have occurred,” Crouse said. “They have been minimal in nature, although some argumentative and disorderly conduct.”

Washington County Attorney Eric Clarke also chimed in, saying Griffin got in trouble more for skirting local codes than anything else.

“My understanding is that none of those local involvements involves criminal acts,” Clarke said. “They were all dealing with city code enforcement issues.”

As for Wednesday’s chase and shootings, Crouse said it’s too early to say if the suspect was acting completely on his own, but Griffin was the sole driver of his vehicle.

Timeline of events

During the press conference, Crouse revealed more details of how events transpired Wednesday afternoon. 

Police agencies respond after a report of an active shooter on SR-9, LaVerkin, Utah, Oct. 6, 2021 | Photo by Ron Chaffin, St. George News

He said on Wednesday around 3:41 p.m., officers were dispatched to a report of a man who got into an argument with another man and his daughter and pointed a gun at them on State Street in Hurricane. The incident occurred near the Dairy Queen but not at the Dairy Queen itself. 

Crouse said it’s not clear at this point what the argument was about or the motive for the gun being pulled.

Witnesses reported the man who pointed the weapon leaving the scene in a silver Ford pickup, which stopped at a nearby business. The pickup was spotted by Hurricane Police, who pulled the vehicle over. Officers attempted to give verbal commands to a man they described as Griffin.

Crouse said Griffin did not comply, and an officer attempted to remove him from the vehicle. At that point, Griffin hit the gas, and officers began a vehicle pursuit.

As the chase passed through Hurricane, LaVerkin and Virgin on state Route 9, police said the vehicle reached speeds in excess of 100 mph and was also driving into opposing traffic. Along the way, police said the suspect shot at 10 other vehicles.

Police determined because of the danger the man posed to the public, a spike strip was set up at milepost 25 and officers equipped with lethal force were staged. 

One of the tires was punctured and officers fired at the vehicle, but the vehicle continued on for 2 miles into Rockville.

While reports Wednesday said the vehicle crashed in Rockville, Crouse clarified Thursday that the suspect actually stopped his vehicle in the middle of the road. Police said as the suspect exited the vehicle, he exchanged gunfire with two Hurricane officers and fled into the nearby residential area. 

Washington County Critical Incident Task Force spokesperson Lt. David Crouse speaks to the media at the Washington County Sheriffs Office, Hurricane, Utah, Oct. 7, 2021 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

While Rockville residents were ordered to shelter in place and authorities worked to evacuate some residents, local, state and federal park authorities, including SWAT teams, launched a search.

Near the start of the search, a gunshot was heard. At around 6:15 p.m., officers found Griffin in the backyard of a residence with a gunshot wound to the head they said was self-inflicted. The suspect was transported by ambulance to St. George Regional Hospital, where he remains as of Thursday evening. 

As the investigation continues, police are asking anyone with footage of the incident and ensuing chase to contact the Hurricane Police Department. 

Two Hurricane Police officers have been placed on administrative leave as standard procedure while the task force investigates their use of lethal force, though Crouse emphasized that Griffin was never actually shot by officers. 

“Anytime an officer discharges their weapon in the line of the duty, the Critical Incident Task Force is deployed to conduct an unbiased investigation,” Crouse said. 

This report is based on preliminary information provided by law enforcement and may not contain the full scope of findings. Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

Ed. Note: A new Utah law generally prohibits the release of arrest booking photos until after a conviction is obtained.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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