Stanley Gracius pleads with police officers, confused why he is being arrested at Walmart after buying a bike for his son.
“I paid for this bike. I have the receipt,” Gracius, a 37-year-old Black man from Reading, says in now-viral videos of the incident in Berks County. “Please stop. Please stop.”
An officer orders him to put his hands behind his back as he continues to ask them to “please stop.” They appear to use a stun gun on him and tackle him to the ground.
“Why are you doing this to me? I paid. I paid for my stuff.”
This violent arrest on July 20 played out in Wyomissing, Pa., a small town outside of Reading, and came about two months after the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd sparked protests against racism and police brutality across the country.
The videos have been shared tens of thousands of times on social media and spurred protests. Last week, about 50 people gathered outside the Wyomissing Borough Hall and local police department to demand justice for Gracius, including dropping the charges against him and defunding the police, according to a live video of the event by the Reading Eagle. People also walked through Walmart holding signs that said “Black Lives Matter.”
Gracious was charged with aggravated assault, simple assault, disarming law enforcement officer, resisting arrest, defiant trespass and disorderly conduct. He declined to comment Friday. He posted a Facebook Live video Monday saying a GoFundMe is helping to pay his legal fees for attorney Daniel Nevins of Ebner, Nevins & McAllister. Nevins did not immediately respond Tuesday to a request for comment.
“Hey, Mr. DA. Guess what? Shame on you for that video,” Gracius said in the Facebook Live. “Tsk Tsk Tsk. But guess what? Myself, Mr. Nevins and the unconditional love of the people is coming for you guys.”
The District Attorney’s Office released portions of surveillance video of Gracius’ 15-minute Walmart shopping trip. Though the video does not have sound, the District Attorney’s office includes captions describing the scenes.
The office says a manager asked Gracius to leave Walmart where, authorities say, he was riding a children’s bike throughout the store, playing music, and “yelling obscenities.” Gracius refused, the District Attorney’s office said, and Walmart management called police.
When officers arrived, they waited for about four minutes while Gracius purchased the bicycle. Officers told Gracius that Walmart wanted to ban him from the store and asked for his identification, according to the video captions. Gracius refused, authorities said, and officers attempted to detain him for this information.
The surveillance video ends, and video recorded by an onlooker that has now gone viral picks up. Two officers can be seen trying to force Gracius’ hands behind his back. When he resists, officers seem to use a stun gun, and wrestle him to the ground.
He keeps asking what he did. In the parking lot, they shove him into a car and tie his legs. He says: “Please stop. You’re hurting me. Please stop. You’re hurting me.”
Onlookers yell that Gracius did nothing wrong and call the cops racist.
The DA’s office said the officers who arrested Gracius “showed restraint, acted professionally, and did a good job deescalating the situation with the defendant.”
Walmart said in a statement that Gracius’s behavior led managers to believe “the safety of those inside the store could become at risk.”
“While we certainly understand the strong reactions to the video showing the altercation between the customer and police, what is being shared on social media does not include the events leading to the interaction that prompted the call for assistance,” the statement said.
Protesters said riding a bike through Walmart should not be a crime.
“We’re here fighting for a better future for our kids. My son is a Black little boy and he doesn’t know what’s going on because he’s only two years old, but think about the conversation I have to have with him when he’s of age,” Shakair McCain, 26 of Shillington told the crowd at a protest. “It’s not just Stanley. It’s about all of us. It’s about a better life for all of us.”
The next day, McCain was protesting at the Walmart. She asked the small crowd marching: “Who doesn’t test out a bike in Walmart? I see Caucasian people do it all the time.”