Jury: Man tried to kill Cooper (Friday, February 09, 2007)

James Allen Grove’s gentle expression never changed as a jury of nine women and three men found him guilty of attempted capital murder.
Generally, the Breckenridge man’s demeanor rarely changed as he rested one injured hand on top of the other even after the jury took less than an hour to sentence him to life behind bars.
“I already knew what the outcome would be,” said Grove in his soft tenor’s voice as Precinct 1 Constable Dickie Hoffman escorted him back to the Young County Jail. “If it had been a jury of all women, I might have had a chance, but there were three men on that jury. I’ll probably hang myself in prison.”
Grove, 52, was tried in Judge Steve Crawford’s 90th District Court after attorneys agreed that because of the notoriety of the case in Breckenridge a change of venue was necessary for fair trial. District Attorney Steve Bristow explained the trial wasn’t about insanity but about attempted capital murder. Defense attorney Stanley Smith offered evidence and testimony that Grove was mentally incapable of knowing what he was doing was wrong.

Bristow related how on May 21, 2006, Grove took a short double-bladed axe and strolled toward the Breckenridge Police Station. Being late in the afternoon, neighbors were out and asked Grove where he was going and what he was going to do with the little axe. Neighbors related he told them he was on his way to chop up a police officer. He was distraught because BPD had recently received new vehicles and he hadn’t.
Neighbors quickly called BPD to warn them. Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Grant Atkinson was on duty that Sunday and drew his service pistol. Witnesses testified that Atkinson ordered Grove to drop the axe and step back, but instead he stepped forward and raised the axe and the trooper shot him.
The three shots shattered both of Grove’s arms. A bullet hit Grove in the shoulder, turning him sideways where another bullet went through his other arm and cut a groove across his chest.
“It happened fast,” Bristow told the jury. “But Trooper Atkinson reacted according to his training, and if he would have been any slower, we might have had a capital murder case here.”

“He reacted three seconds later than I would have in the same situation,” said Texas Ranger David Hullum.
Atkinson kicked the axe away from Grove, and other officers and emergency personnel soon arrived. Grove was taken to Stephens County Hospital in Breckenridge and later transferred to John Peter Smith Hospital.
“Now I’m just like my dad,” Grove said to Stephens County Emergency Medical Service technician Kenneth Browning. “He got shot in the head, and I got what I wanted.”
The jury was inundated with piles of evidence and testimony of a man whose mental stability had been deteriorating before he was 13. Thousands of pages of Grove’s 10-year medical history were presented and mental health physicians and counselors testified to years of “bipolar, depressed and manic” behavior.
Grove, according to testimony, saw his father shot to death by Dallas police during a domestic argument where the father tried to cut an officer with a knife. In the years following his father’s death, Grove’s mental health manifested itself into erratic and self-destructive outlets including three suicide attempts.
Licensed professional counselor Joan LeBleu from the Graham Helen Farabee Regional Mental Health and Mental Retardation Center presented records from May 2000 to March 2001 diagnosing Grove with bipolar manic depression with psychotic features.
“Aren’t there plenty of people with mental illness living productive lives?” Bristow asked.
“It’s a disease that doesn’t go away,” LeBlue said. “But it can be controlled with medication.”
Fiances have always been a source of stress, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Randell Price added, and Grove got angry when he didn’t get what he wanted. Which is why he is currently content to be in the Stephens County Jail.
“Currently, he’s quite happy because since he’s been in jail he has no financial worries and all of his Social Security disability money is going into a bank account. Part of his plan is to buy a new Jeep,” Price said.
After the incident at the Breckenridge Police Station, Dr. Michael T. Jumas, director of psychiatry at Norther Texas State Hospital, said Grove was aware that he had been shot.
“My dad was shot in 1970, I wanted to see what it was like to be shot,” Grove told Jumas. “It’s not true what they say about being shot. You’re shot and you go down, it neutralizes you.”
Other “multiple versions” of the incident, according to Grove, were voices in his head telling him what to do, “Graymark 606 in his head” and the police were waiting to ambush him.
“He portrayed himself as a victim of life’s problems and he had problems dealing with every day life,” Jumas said “It was a style of coping. He was jealous of the police because they got new vehicles, but he didn’t.”
Certified nurse Tammy Thurmond recalled during a visit from his son in October 2006 that Grove said after he was released, he planned to go to the Breckenridge Municipal Court with a chain saw to kill the judge in retaliation for a driving while intoxication arrest of his ex-wife.
Price dismissed statements by Fadow and Jumas pointing out that Grove had failed to meet the three prong assessment mandated by the state for insanity.
“The best description is as a borderline personality disorder,” Price said. “He has an intense temper and identity problems with an unstable personality. He’s up, then he’s down.”
Regardless, Price explained, Grove knows right from wrong.
“I just asked him,” said Price recalling his discussion with Grove. “He said, ‘I know what’s right and wrong, shooting someone with a gun, driving intoxicated is wrong, taking an axe to the police department is wrong.”
With his family in the gallery behind him, Grove completed the post trial administration and walked with Hoffman down the courthouse stairs discussing the trial and the weather. As Hoffman started to step on Third Street, Grove’s hand shot out, stopping him from walking into the path of an oncoming car.
“I wouldn’t want you to get run over,” Grove said.