Crime and Justice

Franklin County sheriff suspends captain seen kicking suspect on video

Capt. John Grismore, center, can be seen kicking a man in custody at the Franklin County Sheriff's Office on Sunday, Aug. 7. Screenshot courtesy of the Franklin County Sheriff's Office

Updated at 5:49 p.m.

A captain in the Franklin County Sheriff's Office has been placed on administrative leave after he kicked a man who was in police custody multiple times, according to video of the incident and a statement released by the sheriff's office this week. 

Vermont State Police are investigating Capt. John Grismore — a Republican running to replace Sheriff Roger Langevin, who is not seeking reelection this year — in connection with the alleged assault, Langevin said.

In a statement published on Facebook Thursday afternoon, the Franklin County Republican party said it “strongly condemns” Grismore’s actions, and called on him to withdraw from the sheriff’s race “at this time.”

State police spokesperson Adam Silverman declined to elaborate on the investigation beyond the information provided by the sheriff's office.

Langvein said the department’s command staff was notified Aug. 7 that Grismore had “mistreated” a subject who was being held at the sheriff’s office in St. Albans Town that day.

In video of the incident provided to VTDigger by the sheriff's office and first published online by the County Courier newspaper, a man is seen handcuffed and shackled to a bench at the sheriff’s office. The man attempts to walk away from the bench, but appears to fall on his face and says, “oh, that hurt.” 

Two deputies walk over and help the man sit back on the bench, telling him to stay seated. The man then stands back up and appears to resist the deputies’ efforts to get him to sit down, at which point Grismore enters the frame. 

Grismore kicks the man in the groin, pushing him back onto the bench. He then appears to press his foot into the suspect’s groin two more times, yelling at him to “sit down.” The man stands up again, and Grismore again kicks him in the groin back onto the bench.

“He kicked me. He’s so much in trouble,” the man appears to say. 

The man goes on to stay seated with the two other deputies around him. Grismore leaves the frame and reenters holding a spit hood, and the man appears to say, “tell him to get away from me.” Grismore then places the spit hood over the man’s head. 

The man tells Grismore he did not spit at him, but Grismore responds, “you just tried spitting at me,” before walking away again.

According to the sheriff’s department, the man — who has not been publicly named by investigators — was charged with assault with bodily fluids, simple assault on a police officer, disorderly conduct and unlawful mischief. 

The department provided more than two hours of body-worn camera footage of the incident and the events before and after. At the beginning of the footage, deputies respond to a house where a woman, who identifies herself as the man’s mother, says he has been drinking. He is an alcoholic, she says, and “I just can’t deal with it anymore.” 

Deputies tell the man, who is standing nearby, they want to talk to him. He becomes increasingly agitated, saying that he is going to kill himself and wants to get help.

At one point the man, who has removed his shirt, gets up from a chair and threatens to “knock out” a deputy, before lunging at him. Deputies pin the man to the ground and put him in handcuffs, then transport him to their office in the back of a sheriff’s cruiser.

As deputies are leaving the house, one officer appears to tell another that he has spit “all over the side of your face.” While the man is being detained at the station, he is seen spitting on the floor at least once.

After deputies detain him, they leave the room and one of them places his body-worn camera down nearby, so that it is recording the man while he is detained.

Less than 10 minutes after Grismore comes in and kicks the man, emergency medical technicians arrive and examine him. He continues to say that he wants to kill himself, and tells sheriff's deputies numerous times that he needs to use the restroom. 

Deputies do not appear to release him from his restraints to relieve himself, and he is left there for more than an hour with the spit guard over his head. Eventually, deputies come back and tell him he is being taken to Northwest State Correctional Facility.

In its statement, the department says the complaint against Grismore was internally generated. 

“The commander who was made aware of this contacted Sheriff Roger Langevin, who was out of state at the time,” the department said. “Sheriff Langevin returned to Vermont, placed Grismore on administrative leave, and referred the matter to the Franklin County State’s Attorney’s Office.” 

The state's attorney's office referred the incident to Vermont State Police for a criminal investigation, according to Langevin. The office declined to comment on the incident when reached on the phone Thursday afternoon.

Jerry O’Neill, a former U.S. Attorney for Vermont who is not involved in the case, said after watching the footage of Grismore kicking the detained man that it was “absolutely outrageous.” 

O’Neill said he could not see any way Grismore was acting in self-defense and expected the repercussions for Grismore could be severe, including potential termination and criminal charges.

“Police officers get into scuffles with individuals — unfortunately, regularly,” O’Neill said. “They're trained as to how to deal with those situations. That's not happening here. He gratuitously walks into the situation and kicks the man. There’s no excuse for it.” 

O’Neill also said it was “very important” that the complaint about Grismore’s conduct seems to have come from within the department. He believes police officers are becoming more likely to reveal wrongdoing by their colleagues, he said, though noted some would still keep quiet.  

“The ‘blue wall of silence’ has changed considerably,” O’Neill said.

Franklin County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Mark Lauer declined to say whether Grismore had been disciplined in the past, noting that any such records “would be confidential.” 

Langevin announced in April that he would not be seeking reelection this year. At the time, he also said he would support Grismore’s bid to replace him, stating in a press release the captain “brings a unique set of skills, creative ideas and high energy.” 

It was not immediately clear if Langevin plans to continue supporting Grismore’s run. The sheriff did not respond to a phone call requesting more information Thursday. 

When reached by phone Thursday afternoon, Grismore immediately hung up and did not respond to a subsequent message.

In Tuesday's election, Grismore ran unopposed in the Republican primary for Franklin County sheriff and garnered more than 80% of the roughly 2,960 votes cast.

There were no candidates for sheriff listed on the Democratic and Progressive ballots. But Grismore also had the highest percentage of write-in votes among those parties’ voters, with about 4% and about 8% of people writing in his name, respectively.

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Shaun Robinson

About Shaun

Shaun Robinson is a Report for America corps member with a special focus on issues of importance to Franklin and Grand Isle counties. He is a journalism graduate of Boston University, with a minor in political science. His work has appeared in the Boston Globe, the Patriot Ledger of Quincy and the Cape Cod Times.

Email: [email protected]

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