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Press Release

Bridgeton Police Officer Admits Civil Rights Violation

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Jersey

CAMDEN, N.J. – A Bridgeton police officer today admitted to violating an individual’s  civil rights by using excessive force during an arrest, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced.

John Grier III, 51, of Cedarville, New Jersey, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Joseph H. Rodriguez in Camden in federal court to a superseding information charging him with one count of violating an individual’s civil rights. 

“This defendant admitted he broke his oath as a police officer by violating an arrestee’s civil rights. Those who wear the badge have an obligation to protect the civil rights of everyone in our communities, including those who are accused of a crime. Using pepper spray on a handcuffed suspect who posed no threat was an unreasonable use of force that violated the law. This office will continue to prioritize the protection of the civil rights for all of New Jersey’s people.”

U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger

“The public trusts that when we take our oath as law enforcement to serve and protect, we will respect the gravity of our responsibilities,” FBI – Newark Special Agent in Charge James E. Dennehy said. “When we arrest and take someone into custody, we must ensure their safety, as well as our own. We can do a million things right, but one bad action erodes the faith people place in us."

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

Grier was sworn in as a Bridgeton police officer in August 2004. As a police officer, Grier knew that every citizen had the right to be free from unreasonable seizure which includes the right to be free from the use of unreasonable force by a police officer. On June 18, 2017, Grier was working as Bridgeton Police Officer in full uniform. That day Grier was dispatched to the Riggins Gas Station on West Broad Street in Bridgeton, New Jersey, and came into contact with the victim. The victim was arrested for driving while under the influence of alcohol. He was placed in handcuffed by other officers who were on scene, and was not resisting arrest or posing a threat to Grier or any other officers. As another officer walked the victim toward a police vehicle, Grier sprayed the victim, who was still in handcuffs, directly in the face with a crowd control-sized can of oleoresin capsicum (OC) spray. Grier then sprayed the victim a second time while the victim was still in handcuffs.

At today’s plea hearing, Grier agreed that his repeated use of OC spray was unnecessary, unreasonable, and an excessive use of force, in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.

The violation of civil rights count carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a maximum fine of $100,000. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 6, 2024.

U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Dennehy in Newark, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea. Sellinger also recognized the contributions of the Internal Affairs Unit of the Bridgeton Police Department, under the direction of Chief Michael A. Gaimari Sr.; investigators and detectives of the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, under the direction of Attorney General  Matthew J. Platkin; and the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McCray.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jason M. Richardson and Lindsey Harteis of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Camden.


Updated October 5, 2023

Civil Rights
Press Release Number: 23-294