Tragedy struck Lassen County March 2, 1995, when Deputy Larry D. Griffith was shot and killed while attempting to contact a suspect in a domestic dispute.
Sheriff Ron Jarrell said Griffith, 44, responded with three other officers to a ranch house near Ravendale. The suspect, a reputed survivalist, began shooting as the officers were exiting their two patrol vehicles, and Griffith was fatally injured.
Law enforcement vehicles from throughout California and Nevada arrived for the funeral services March 7. The tribute began when more than 200 patrol cars, motorcycles and fire engines formed a procession from the Lassen County Fairgrounds to the funeral at the Assembly of God Church.
Griffith’s death affected the entire community. “I’ve never seen an outpouring of this magnitude,” said family friend and Los Altos Police Officer Craig Penley. “People pulled together in a way I’ve never seen before.”
Craig Griffith added that he’d “never seen anything even remotely as powerful” as the community response to his brother’s tragic death.
Carolyn Hutchinson, Griffith’s sister, expressed hope that the tragedy would lead to increased officer safety throughout California. She said the family requested and fully supported Susanville Police Officer Todd Daugherty’s plea for positive change during the funeral service.
“It’s not a negative thing,” she said. “We want it to be protective, with the necessary resources provided to improve safety.”
Griffith’s death in the line of duty was the first of a Lassen County sheriff’s deputy in over 25 years.
Deputy Scott Ruppel gave the eulogy, summarizing Griffith’s Army service in Vietnam and entry into law enforcement in the early 1980s as a Plumas County reserve deputy. After three years as a full-time deputy in Plumas County, Griffith joined the Lassen County Sheriff’s Department in 1984.
Ruppel said Griffith was always more concerned about family and friends than himself. “I feel that if he could repeat the day, he would not change the outcome,” Ruppel said, referring to Griffith’s death and the ten-hour standoff which followed. “He would have found it unbearable to lose a fellow officer.”
Many of Griffith’s close friends were members of the Lassen County Country Corvette Club which Griffith founded. Club President Wayne McGaughy recalled that Griffith declined the presidency because many of his nights and weekends were dedicated to his work.
Also a Corvette Club member, Officer Daugherty remembered that he and Griffith were hired in 1984 by their respective departments. “We were both the squeaky wheels,” Daugherty said. “We wreaked the most havoc and wrecked the most patrol cars.”
Daugherty also said Griffith seemed to know he was going to die. In his last month, he requested that he be buried with his badge and designated who he wanted as pallbearers.
Sheriff Jarrell characterized Griffith as an exemplary officer. “He was a dedicated professional with a strong commitment to serving his community both in law enforcement and the military reserve, Jarrell said. “He chose this profession out of a strong desire to help people. He got his share of tough details and he always did a good job.”
Griffith is survived by his wife Lauri of Susanville; sons David Griffith of Fernadina, Florida, and Eric Harrison of Quincy; daughter Krystal Griffith of Susanville, parents Marvin Fogel of Texas and Mary Griffith of Poway, brothers Michael Griffith and Craig Griffith as well as sisters Carolyn O’Mara and Terri Griffith.
A trust fund to benefit his family has been established. Donations may be made to the Larry Griffith Trust Fund, c/o Lassen County Federal Credit Union, P.O. Box 1060, Susanville, CA 96130.