The last couple years of 29-year-old Zachary Grigsby's life were troubled, a family friend said Monday.
That life ended in a struggle with police and gunfire outside a northeast Lincoln home Sunday night. He also was wanted for a Nov. 22 altercation with police in Central City, where he lived.
"He wasn’t a monster but these last couple of months I think he’d lost himself and he just gave up,” said Tim Sheehan, who was Grigsby's sponsor through a 12-step program.
Lincoln Police Chief Jim Peschong said Grigsby shot an officer and assaulted another before two officers fired their weapons near 73rd and Adams streets.
Peschong said three officers were involved in the struggle. He wouldn't identify them Monday, but said the two who were injured are expected to be OK. All three are on administrative leave pending an internal investigation.
Grigsby struggled with addiction but had done well, off and on, said Sheehan, adding that he knew him for about 11 years.
After Grigsby's dad, Ronald, died in 2013, he regressed, Sheehan said. And then his fiancée, Heather Stroud, died in a car accident in August 2014.
“Then he started getting on the wrong side again,” Sheehan said. “He kind of lost hope for life. We’ve talked to him and tried to help him.
“He was a good dad and a good person. The drugs kind of took ahold of him.”
Sheehan said his niece had a son with Grigsby six years ago.
On Nov. 22, Grigsby nearly ran over a Central City police officer after an altercation there, according to a Merrick County Court affidavit for his arrest.
“A search of Grigsby’s criminal history reveals multiple felony convictions and a prior arrest for operating a motor vehicle to avoid arrest (dismissed per plea to carrying concealed weapon),” the document reads.
Grigsby was discharged from parole Nov. 25, 2014, after serving 2½ years on several charges out of Merrick County, according to state prison records.
In Lincoln Sunday, shots rang out in front of 2931 N. 73rd St. shortly after 8:45 p.m. when an officer went to the area on a report of suspicious activity and approached a car believed to have stolen license plates on it, Peschong said.
The officer had intended to cite the driver for possession of stolen property when a routine warrant check revealed felony arrest warrants on suspicion of making terroristic threats and obstructing a peace officer in Merrick County, the chief said.
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As back-up arrived, the first officer tried to take Grigsby to the squad car for a search when he said he wasn't going to jail, he said.
"He started grabbing for something while he was resisting officers," Peschong said.
Ultimately, Grigsby pulled a small-caliber handgun and fired, hitting a male officer in the right arm, he said.
The officers returned fire, the chief said, but wouldn't say how many times they shot.
Both officers were taken to Lincoln hospitals.
The male officer remained hospitalized Monday evening. The female officer, who was put in a headlock and punched, went home earlier Monday, the chief said.
As officers struggled with Grigsby, a passenger in his car ran into the house at 2931 N. 73rd St. Peschong said he didn't know if either of them knew the people who lived there.
Police surrounded the house and took five people, including the passenger, in for questioning. All five have since been released, the chief said.
LPD will investigate whether a crime was committed during the shooting, then turn the matter over to the Lancaster County Attorney's Office.
State law requires agencies investigating police-involved killings to handle them as they would any other homicide, said Nebraska Crime Commission Director Darrell Fisher. They can ask an outside agency to assist, but that's not required here as it is in some states, he said.
Lincoln police have the resources and skilled investigators to do their own investigation, Fisher said.
Along with the criminal investigation, the department's internal affairs investigator is looking into the shooting to determine whether officers followed protocol, said Peschong.
“I think we’re lucky that we didn’t get an officer seriously hurt last night or even killed,” he said Monday. “And I equate a lot of that to training, and I equate a lot of that to just darn luck too.”
Grigsby is the second person killed in an officer-involved shooting in Lincoln this year. In March, a deputy U.S. marshal shot and killed 34-year-old Tyson Hubbard as he reached for a gun, authorities said.
This is the first shooting involving a Lincoln police officer since 2009, according to Lincoln Public Safety Director Tom Casady.
On March 18, 2009, Officer John Brandl killed 45-year-old escaped inmate Earl Russell, who charged Brandl at Oak Lake Park with a foot-long Bowie knife.
The last time a Lincoln police officer was shot in the line of duty was in 2003, when Officer Michael Schaaf was hit in the face and shoulders by shotgun pellets fired by Larry Thompson, who was wanted on outstanding warrants. Thompson killed himself as SWAT team members tried to arrest him. Schaaf remains with the department.
Staff writer Michael Shoro contributed to this report.