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Stand-off ends in death of suspect

A stand-off at Tim Street and Wilson Avenue in Russellville ended in the death of the 27-year-old subject last week.

According to Police Chief Chris Hargett, what started out as an emergency call about a theft Thursday morning became a domestic incident before dissolving into a standoff. The person in question, 27-year-old male Matt Grissom, refused to have any dialogue with the officers or Florence SWAT team and remained barricaded, armed, in a house that belongs to his grandfather until late in the afternoon.

Hargett said although negotiators attempted to converse with the suspect, he would not engage.

“Some other tactics were used to try to get some motion or some type of communication started,” Hargett said. SWAT team members could be seen smashing in windows and changing position around the home.

“Shortly after that, officers noticed smoke coming out of the eaves of the house,” Hargett said. “Within minutes, flames were visible in the house.”

As the Russellville Fire Department, which was already on scene, began to battle the flames, “the SWAT guys went in with them because at that time we still didn’t know which room the suspect was in.” RFD fire marshal Justin Green said two teams were active in the house – one working to locate and rescue Grissom, and one working to suppress the fire.

“It was determined a little bit later – they did find the suspect in a room, and he was deceased,” Hargett said.

Hargett said Grissom’s wound appeared to be self-inflicted. He would not comment on the type of wound; Tuesday morning Hargett reported his department was still waiting for the official autopsy. However, two loud pops could be heard shortly before 5 p.m. that could have been gunshots. Hargett said no officers on the scene discharged their weapons in the course of the stand-off.

RFD fire marshal Justin Green said he called in the state fire marshal’s office for a joint investigation since multiple agencies were involved at the scene of the stand-off. Thursday night the joint investigation revealed the area of origin and point of origin for the fire. Friday morning investigators determined the “more than likely” cause: a hand-thrown CS canister – tear gas. “It’s not supposed to start any fires. It even says on the boxes they ship it in (that it isn’t supposed to start fires),” Green said. However, Green said a fire could have ignited easily owing to the large amount of combustible material stored in the home – a significant amount of cardboard boxes, magazines, papers and other easily-ignited materials.

Green said the CS canister was taken into evidence as part of the continuing evaluation. He is ruling the fire “accidental and unintentional.”

“It’s a tragic situation,” Green said. “Nobody intentionally went in there trying to set a fire.”

Hargett also lamented the loss of life in an incident everyone hoped would have had a more peaceful and positive conclusion. “It’s not the outcome we wanted. The outcome we want is for everyone to be safe and go home at the end of the day.”

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