A candidate for sheriff in one Vermont county is breaking his silence, more than a month after video surfaced that showed him appearing to mistreat a handcuffed and seemingly intoxicated man who was in custody.
The candidate for Franklin County Sheriff, former captain John Grismore, insists the segment of video that has been widely seen in the past month does not tell the complete story of what happened that day.
"That really demonized me as a person," Grismore said of the video clip, sitting down for an exclusive interview with Northwest Access Television which was taped Wednesday.
In the interview, available in full here, Grismore discusses the encounter that cost him his job as a sheriff’s deputy. Retiring Sheriff Roger Langevin fired Grismore after an internal investigation into the actions seen in the video.
"Individuals that have been arrested for more heinous crimes get better treatment than somebody like myself got," Grismore lamented in the nearly hour-long conversation with Northwest Access TV host Richard Cowperthwait, a longtime Franklin County journalist.
Grismore told Cowperthwait it was his normal day off in early August when a handcuffed and shackled man was being combative with colleagues, and Grismore feared the man might headbutt, bite, or spit.
"My father passed away from complications related to COVID," Grismore told Northwest Access TV. "So absolutely, the severity of spitting is at the front of my mind."
The man previously spat on another deputy, Grismore claimed, accusing the individual of also having a record of police interactions that raised concerns he could possibly injure a deputy.
Grismore claims he did not really kick the detainee in the groin as many have labeled it, telling Cowperthwait he viewed his actions as more of a swift shove with his foot to the lower abdomen – aimed at getting the man to comply with commands. Grismore argued the newsworthy content of the video made up only a few seconds of what had been a couple of hours of deputies dealing with the man.
Despite the public scrutiny, job loss, and a still-pending Vermont State Police investigation, Grismore remains a candidate to lead his former department as Franklin County Sheriff. He will be the one name that will appear on printed ballots this fall in that race.
However, write-in candidates have since emerged to challenge Grismore.
Grismore had earned the backing of county Republicans and Democrats in the primary, but optics and concerns over judgment had both parties revoking that support.
"I don’t know how he’d be able to serve, if he won," Franklin County Sen. Corey Parent, the chairman of the Franklin County GOP, told NECN & NBC10 Boston on September 2.
The Franklin County Republicans endorsed Mark Lauer, a lieutenant in the sheriff’s office, as a write-in candidate. The St. Albans Messenger newspaper reported the county Democrats later joined their GOP neighbors in also endorsing Lauer.
“Honesty, integrity, and courage – those are the things I live by every day,” Lauer said of himself in an interview earlier this month with NECN & NBC10 Boston, in which he also said the behavior from his opponent in the widely-seen video was "just unacceptable."
A third person, Gale Messier, is also waging a write-in campaign.
In a Facebook post about how the office would be run under him, Messier wrote, "When you come into contact with a member of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department, you will be treated professionally, courteously, and with the respect you deserve from a public servant."
Despite calls to exit the race, including from both the Republican and Democrat running for Franklin County State’s Attorney, Grismore has vowed to stick with his campaign. The Democrat running for state's attorney even floated the possibility of impeachment by the Vermont Legislature as a possibility, should Grismore be elected.
In the Northwest Access TV interview, Grismore insisted he did nothing wrong and explained that law enforcement can be messy sometimes.
"If I was in the wrong, I would’ve accepted it," Grismore claimed in the interview. "I would’ve owned up to it. And if that meant I had to withdraw [from the race], certainly I would’ve done that. But I don’t feel that way."
A Vermont State Police investigation into the encounter is nearing an end, a VSP spokesman said Thursday. After the conclusion of the investigation, the findings will be presented to prosecutors with the Franklin County State's Attorney's office for consideration of possible charges, the spokesman added.
In the new interview, Cowperthwait asked Grismore what he may do if criminal charges result from the ongoing investigation. Grismore responded, "If we get to it, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it," but indicated he "can’t see it" ending in charges for him.
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