SACRAMENTO — When Cabri Griffin had dinner at his friend’s house recently, the room and their hearts were filled with laughter and light.
“He was clowning with my little baby and that was the first time I heard her like belly laugh, you know, big laugh. That was pretty special,” said Gintaras Biza.
That moment at his house is now even more special to Biza because there will never be another like it.
Griffin, a fellow CHP officer, died Monday after falling ill during a basketball game at CHP headquarters.
“It was the worst alarm clock I’ve ever had,” Biza said, referencing the call he got Monday.
Since he works the graveyard shift, that alarm came in the afternoon. It was a devastating call about a man he once eagerly posted on Instagram was his “brother from another mother” in real estate and all things else.
For someone he knew to be “the most in shape person,” Biza couldn’t imagine what could have happened in a simple game of basketball that brought on the end of his 31-year-old friend’s life.
FOX40 first saw Griffin’s focus on the kind of physical excellence and mental toughness the CHP requires when he was the squad leader of his cadet class back in 2015.
“Just making those split second decisions is much more complicated than a lot of people know about,” he told FOX40 then.
Biza and Griffin became fast friends when they met years ago as dispatchers doing trainings all over the state.
“They’ll send somebody out, but 99.9 percent of the time they don’t have closure,” Biza said about the experience of sending officers into emergencies.
That desire to complete the circle of service at the other end of the call pushed both to want to go out on patrol. Griffin, originally from Los Angeles, lived with Biza while he was in the academy, a pursuit he committed to just 12 days after marrying the love of his life, Chantal.
“He babied her. He loved her. He took care of her like no one else I know,” Biza said.
After serving in Southern California, Griffin had just moved his wife to Sacramento so he could take a new post with the CHP’s Office of Equal Employment Opportunity.
“This guy literally influenced the community statewide,” Biza said. “There’s dispatchers that were trained by him that are throughout the state. There’s classmates and co-workers that are throughout the state that were around him, around his positivity, seeing his work ethic and working with him.”
John Hamm, the former director of the California Association of Highway Patrolmen, didn’t know Griffin well, but was playing basketball with him on the day he died. Griffin made such an impression on him he wrote a letter to Griffin’s wife saying, “Cabri made me think immediately how his enthusiasm and passion could be contagious in the CHP.”
He went on to write, “In a world that seems bent on negativity and blaming others, I believe Cabri was tipping the scales in the other direction.”
“We lost somebody that was definitely, that had the heart of a servant for the people,” Biza said.
On Tuesday, CHP Sacramento posted a GoFundMe page that was created to help Griffin’s widow.