Stanley Gaston Gracius is the Pennsylvania man who was arrested at a Walmart after purchasing a bicycle for his son. Witnesses recorded the arrest, which includes footage of an officer using a Taser and later tying Gracius’ legs together with a belt. The videos have been widely shared on social media.
Gracius repeatedly asked the officers why he was being detained and insisted over and over again that he had not done anything wrong. Witnesses were also heard off-camera expressing confusion about why Gracius was under arrest since he had paid for the bicycle and had a receipt to prove it. In a video shared to Reddit, one witness remarked at least three times that he thought Gracius was targeted because he is Black.
The Berks County District Attorney’s Office released a statement on Facebook defending the arrest and said the Wyomissing Police officers had “acted appropriately.” According to the prosecutor, Gracius was never accused of stealing the bike. A store manager had asked Gracius to leave because he was riding the bike through the aisles and “playing loud music and yelling profanities at other shoppers.” The officers arrived as Gracius was paying for the bike.
Gracius posted bond on July 21, according to inmate records, and was released. He also announced that he was home on Facebook Live.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The District Attorney Has Released Walmart Surveillance Footage & Says the Store Manager Had Asked Gracius to Leave Because He Was Being Disruptive
Gracius was never accused of stealing the bicycle, the Berks County District Attorney explained in a prepared statement shared to Facebook. The prosecutor explained that Wyomissing Police were called to the Walmart, located at 1135 Berkshire Boulevard, on July 20 because a customer was being disruptive inside the store.
A store manager told police Gracius had been “riding a bicycle through the store, playing loud music and yelling profanities at other shoppers.” She added that Gracius had hit shopping carts and nearly run into other shoppers. The manager asked Gracius to leave but she says he responded, “You’re not going to tell me what to do.”
The district attorney wrote in the statement that the “Wyomissing Police showed restraint, acted professionally, and did a good job deescalating the situation with the defendant, Stanley Gracius. Mr. Gracius did not in any manner abide by the requests of not only the store manager of Walmart, but also the requests of the officers themselves.”
Critics took to social media demanding that Walmart release surveillance footage from inside the store in order for the public to see how Gracius was acting prior to the arrest. The Berks County District Attorney published more than nine minutes of footage on July 23. The video, which does not have audio, shows Gracius riding around the store on a child-sized bike.
The store manager told police Gracius cut in front of other shoppers on his way to the cash register. The district attorney’s office explained on the video that the manager asked the responding police officers to acquire Gracius’ name and other identifying information in order to ban him from the store. Prosecutors are asking any witnesses to contact the District Attorney’s Office at 610-478-6000.
The district attorney’s office also shared a video on Facebook of Gracius inside a convenience store on July 19th. The prosecutor explained: “Consistent with our statement on Tuesday, we have released sections of the surveillance video we received from Walmart showing the behavior of Stanley Gracius on Monday, July 20th. In addition, we received this video from an incident the day before in Wyomissing, where the defendant entered a store without a shirt, shoes or a mask, was confrontational with the store owner, and refused to leave for 9 minutes.”
2. Police Officers Used a Taser on Gracius as He Repeatedly Insisted He Had Paid for the Bike
Videos that have circulated on Reddit and Twitter show what happened after two Wyomissing Police officers first approached Gracius. In one clip, Gracius is heard telling the two officers he had paid for the bike. They ask him to put his hands behind his back and he responds, “Please stop!”
One of the officers uses a taser on Gracius while the second officer puts his hand on the back of Gracius’ head. Gracius yells out, “Why are you doing this to me?” and “I paid for my stuff” as he is taken down to the ground.
today in walmart (1135 berkshire blvd in Wyomissing, PA) the police unnecessarily used excessive force by tazing a black man who did NOTHING WRONG. (1) pic.twitter.com/MJ7q3vOPu0
— layla (@labousaab44) July 21, 2020
Gracius continues insisting he has not done anything wrong as the officers pin him to the ground and tell him to stop resisting. At one point, Gracius shouts out that he hopes others can see what’s happening. One of the officers is heard instructing Gracius to let them put the handcuffs on him, to which he again asks why he is being detained.
Once Gracius is back on his feet, with his hands behind his back in cuffs, he asks the crowd of witnesses to verify that they had seen him pay for the bicycle. He also insists he has a receipt.
3. Police Used a Belt to Tie Gracius’ Legs When He Refused to Get in the Police Vehicle
Gracius was outside of the Walmart with the officers for at least 10 minutes before he was placed in the police vehicle and driven away. In a video shared to Reddit, Gracius yells out that he doesn’t know why he is being arrested and asks someone to share the video on Facebook. He looks directly into the cellphone camera, states his name and explains that he went to Walmart to buy a bicycle for his son. Gracius says he used both cash and a credit card to pay for the bike.
A third officer arrives on the scene and Gracius asks him, “Why are your friends doing this to me?” The third officer tells Gracius he has no idea why he was arrested, urges Gracius to remain calm and that says they will figure it out.
This exchange goes on for several more minutes, with Gracius repeating that he had done nothing wrong and the officers repeatedly urging him to get in the vehicle. Gracius asks witnesses in the crowd to explain to him why he is being arrested and one person responds, “Because you’re Black.” In the video embedded above, neither Gracius nor the police officers are heard on video mentioning race. At one point, Gracius accuses the officers of “kidnapping” him.
Eventually, the officers push Gracius into the vehicle but he refuses to put his legs inside. One of the officers walks away and returns moments later with what appears to be a leather belt. They use the belt to tie Gracius’ legs together. About 8 1/2 minutes into the video, Gracius yells out, “They’re fastening my legs! I hope everybody sees this!” As they do so, one of the officers tells Gracius not to kick him.
4. Gracius Faces Multiple Charges Including Aggravated Assault & Disarming a Law Enforcement Officer
Gracius is facing multiple charges related to the July 20 arrest. Berks County, Pennsylvania, court records show Gracius was initially booked into the Berks County Prison and held on $2,500 bail. The Berks County Sheriff, Eric Weaknecht, confirmed to Heavy via email that if Gracius could not make bail, he would have been moved to the Berks County Jail. Gracius bonded out and was released on July 21.
A preliminary hearing was initially scheduled for August 6 but was later moved up to July 27. The charges include:
- aggravated assault: first-degree felony, 2 counts
- disarming law enforcement officer: third-degree felony
- simple assault: second-degree misdemeanor, 2 counts
- resisting arrest: second-degree misdemeanor
- defiant trespass: third-degree misdemeanor
- disorderly conduct/engage in fighting: third-degree misdemeanor
Court records show Gracius was previously arrested in Berks County on similar charges. The Reading City Police Department arrested him in October 2014 on charges including resisting arrest, disarming a law enforcement officer and defiant trespassing. Gracius pleaded guilty in that case. A representative for the Berks County Jail System confirmed to Heavy over the phone that Gracius served a few months behind bars.
5. Protesters Called For Prosecutors to Drop the Charges Against Gracius During a Demonstration Outside the Wyomissing Police Department
Group stages protest at Wyomissing police office over arrest of Black man at Walmart https://t.co/3v3X9vLP6x
— The Reading Eagle (@ReadingEagle) July 22, 2020
Community members gathered outside the Wyomissing Police Department on July 22 to protest against Gracius’ arrest. The Reading Eagle reported that about 50 people demonstrated for about an hour and called for the charges against Gracius to be dropped.
The grassroots group Berks Stands Up, which encourages people to get involved in the political process, helped to organize the demonstration. Director Jane Palmer told the Reading Eagle, “We don’t know what prompted Walmart to call the police,. But it sure looks like it could have been handled very, very differently.”
Gracius was born in 1983, according to court records. According to his Facebook page, Gracius attended Reading Senior High School and graduated in 2001. Gracius included the nickname “Stan the Man” on his Facebook page.
Gracius explained in the “details” section that he has three children, including a daughter and two sons. He wrote that he is self-employed and described his business as a type of investment strategy. “I love my biz, cuz it allows me to help ANYONE make this money. I’m looking for people who want more from life, than going to work, and punching a clock.”