A Bridgeton police officer faces up to 30 years in prison after allegedly pepper spraying a compliant man during a June 2017 arrest and lying about the interaction in police reports, acting U.S. Attorney Rachel Honig announced Thursday.
John Grier III, 49, was charged with one count of violating an individual’s civil rights and one count of falsifying a record.
The officer is accused of pepper spraying a motorist after a verbal spat at a Bridgeton gas station in June 2017. Police were called to the scene after receiving a report that two men were yelling at other individuals. Another officer arrived first, and Grier came as back-up.
The two men were cited, and Grier left the scene only to return minutes later after the two men confronted an officer who remained at the gas station.
They complied with Grier’s order to return to their vehicle once he arrived, and the driver — apparently inebriated — moved his vehicle. As another officer was placing handcuffs on the driver, Grier told him to “step back” and asked the driver “do you want to feel pain, sir,” the prosecutor said.
The driver was handcuffed and did not resist, but Grier pepper sprayed him as he was being put into the back seat of a police cruiser. A separate officer helped the driver up onto the seat after he doubled over in pain, and Grier pepper sprayed him again.
“There. How do you like it now?” Grier said, according to prosecutors. “Now get in the goddamn car.”
His report claimed the driver refused to enter the police cruiser and was unaffected by the first burst of irritant.
The civil rights violation carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment. The false records charge could see him imprisoned for 20 years. Both carry fines of up to $250,000.
Grier was arraigned Thursday and released on a $50,000 bond. He is being represented by Stuart Alterman. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Richardson is arguing the case for the government.