By: Reney Waters, Follow South Jersey Bridgeton City Intern
BRIDGETON, N.J. — On June 30, Bridgeton police officer John Grier III was charged with one count of violating an individual’s civil rights and one count of falsifying a record for submitting a false police report about an assault. Grier, a 49-year-old from Cedarville, was arraigned by U.S. Magistrate Judge Ann Marie Donio and released on $50,000 bond.
The Bridgeton Police Department put Grier on administrative leave with pay last week. If he is found guilty of the civil rights violation charge, Grier faces a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of 20 years. The maximum fine for each charge is also $250,000. Grier’s indictment took place on June 30, but it was unsealed and released to the public last Thursday.
According to court documents, the incident that led to Grier’s charges took place on June 18, 2017. Police responded to two males at a gas station yelling at people passing by. The victims were in the front seats of a car parked by a gas pump. Grier initially arrived on scene as back-up, but he left shortly after officers issued the driver and passenger summonses.
After Grier left, both victims approached one police officer in their vehicle, which prevented that officer from driving away, per court documents. The officer radioed for assistance and Grier returned, assisting the officer by ordering the two individuals to get back in their car or be arrested. Grier and his colleague had established probable cause to arrest the two individuals for drunk driving, but he escalated the situation by using a large can of pepper spray.
While his colleagues were nearly finished putting the individuals in handcuffs, court documents allege that Grier opened his can of pepper spray and told his colleague to “step back.” Grier pepper-sprayed one of the victims in the face while another officer was putting them in the back of a patrol car, and he sprayed the victim in the face again after other officers helped the victim sit in the back of the patrol car.
“There, how do you like it now? Now get in the goddamn car,” Grier allegedly said to the victim as he sprayed them the second time.
Grier returned to the police station after this incident where he prepared a fraudulent police report. In his report, Grier falsely claimed that the victim refused to enter the patrol car and that his second use of pepper spray didn’t hit the victim in the face.
“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 Rachael A. Honig said in a statement.
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This article was produced by a Follow South Jersey news intern thanks to a grant provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through the New Jersey Health Initiatives program to create hyper-local news to meet the informational and health needs of the City of Bridgeton, N.J.