By Jeremy Couso
A brief ceremony on the lawn of the historic courthouse in uptown Susanville Monday marked 20 years since the shooting death of Lassen County Deputy Sheriff Larry Griffith while responding to a domestic dispute call on the Madeline Plains.
Deputy Griffith was well-liked and an active part of our community, magnifying the tragedy for those who knew him and sending shockwaves through town the morning of his death that still resonate today. The fact that he died while risking his life to protect a victim of domestic violence makes the killing even more poignant two decades later.
Speaking in front of the historic courthouse at Monday’s memorial Ron Jarrell, long-time Lassen County Sheriff, called March 2nd, 1995 the toughest day of his professional career.
Before dawn that morning Griffith along with three other deputies, Henry Mahan, William Frietas and Wayne Aldridge responded to a domestic dispute call in the flats east of Ravendale. The deputies came under fire from an upper window of the residence, less than 200 feet away, as they attempted to make contact with the suspect barricaded inside.
In a flurry of gunshots, lasting less than 15 seconds, Deputies Mahan and Griffith were both wounded, Griffith fatally. The surviving deputies were pinned down for more than three hours with only their vehicles to act as cover.
Lassen County Sheriff Dean Growdon, who presided over Monday’s ceremony, placed a wreath of yellow flowers on the monument to Griffith near the flag pole on the courthouse lawn. Then as Deputy Griffith’s law enforcement family, past and present, saluted, the color guard slowly lowered the flag to half-staff.
To paraphrase Sheriff Jarrell – we the living have a responsibility to tell the story periodically so it will not be forgotten. Griffith risked his life, and ultimately sacrificed it, carrying out his sworn duty on that morning in March. He will be long-remembered – not just for the tragic way he was killed, but for the way he lived, the work he did and the example he set for our community.
Deputy Larry Griffith was 44 years old when he was killed, he was survived by his wife Lauri; sons David Griffith and Eric Harrison; daughter Krystal Griffith, parents Marvin Fogel and Mary Griffith, brothers Michael and Craig Griffith as well as sisters Carolyn O’Mara and Terri Griffith.