Bridgeton Police Officer Charged with Civil Rights Violation and Filing False Police Report
CAMDEN, N.J. – A City of Bridgeton police officer has been indicted for offenses arising from an assault on the streets of Bridgeton, Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig announced today.
John Grier III, 49, of Cedarville, New Jersey, is charged in an indictment unsealed today with one count of violating an individual’s civil rights and one count of falsifying a record for submitting a false police report about the assault. A federal grand jury returned the sealed indictment on June 30, 2021. Grier surrendered this morning and was arraigned by videoconference before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ann Marie Donio. He was released on $50,000 bond.
“One of the most important responsibilities we hold at the Department of Justice is the responsibility to investigate and prosecute police officers who abuse their power and deprive our citizens of their civil rights,” Acting U.S. Attorney Honig said. “This Office will continue to charge officers, like this defendant, who dishonor their badges by using force when it is neither reasonable nor necessary and thereby fail to live up to their duty to protect the public they serve.”
“Civil Rights violations are of great concern, particularly when the allegations involve a member of law enforcement,” FBI Newark Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr. said. “The public has an absolute right to trust that law enforcement will protect those they serve and keep them safe. When that trust is violated, it makes it more difficult for our fellow police officers and federal agents to maintain the community's confidence.”
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
On June 18, 2017, Bridgeton Police Department (BPD) officers were dispatched to a Bridgeton gas station following a report of two males sitting at the gas station yelling at passersby. When an officer arrived, he found the victim in the driver seat of a car parked by the gas pumps, and another man was sitting in the passenger seat. In response to the radio call, Grier arrived as a back-up officer.
Eventually, the driver and passenger were issued summonses, and Grier departed the gas station. Within minutes, an officer who remained at the gas station radioed for assistance because the driver and passenger had gotten out of the car and approached him before he could drive off. As Grier drove back to the gas station, he grabbed a large can of OC spray and pulled out the pin allowing its use.
Upon Grier’s arrival, the driver was yelling at officers. Grier ordered the driver to get back into his vehicle and warned him that if he approached the officers again that he would be arrested. The driver and passenger returned to their car and drove to the side of the gas station. At that point the police officers had probable cause to arrest the victim for driving while intoxicated.
The officers approached the car in order to arrest the victim. Grier got out of his car with the large can of OC spray in his hand and told another officer to “step back,” despite the fact that the officer had nearly finished handcuffing the victim. While holding the OC spray, Grier asked the victim “do you want to feel pain, sir?” Other officers were able to handcuff the victim without incident.
As an officer attempted to the place the handcuffed victim into the rear of a patrol vehicle, Grier sprayed the victim in the face. The victim doubled over. An officer helped the victim up and sat him on the edge of the rear seat of the police SUV. Grier then sprayed the victim for a second time. After the second burst of OC spray to the face, Grier asked the driver “there, how do you like it now? Now get in the goddamn car.”
Grier returned to the police station to prepare his report in connection with the victim’s arrest. Grier prepared and submitted a false and fraudulent police report in which Grier falsely stated that the victim “refused [to enter the police vehicle] and continued to forcefully remain outside the vehicle,” and, in an effort to falsely justify the use of the OC spray a second time, stated that the “spray did not strike [the victim] in the face and that it did not take immediate effect[.]”
The violation of civil rights count carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. The false records count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. The maximum fine for each charge is $250,000.
The charges and allegations contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Acting U.S. Attorney Honig credited special agents of the FBI, Atlantic City Resident Agency, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Crouch in Newark, with the investigation leading to today’s indictment. Acting U.S. Attorney Honig also thanked 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 Gurbir Grewal; and the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McCray.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason M. Richardson of the U.S. Attorney=s Office Criminal Division in Camden.