CHATHAM NJ June 21 2017 -- A bank security guard has filed a federal lawsuit against the borough, the police chief and Officer Roy George over alleged excessive force used by George during an incident on Dec. 15, 2015.
In that incident, Joseph Kearney, Jr. alleges George was under the influence of alcohol when he held a loaded handgun to his head and threatened "to blow his (expletive) head off."
The lawsuit also alleges George and a supervisory officer attempted to cover-up George's misconduct.
George, the borough's traffic safety officer, has made headlines before. In 2010, he was demoted and suspended for an undisclosed number of days after he left his fully loaded, .45-caliber handgun and police credentials on a Westfield lawn in October 2009 after a night of drinking.
On Dec. 15, 2015, Kearney, a veteran of the Vietnam War and a retired corrections officer, was reporting for his shift as an armed private security officer at the Bank of America branch on Main Street when a passerby called 911 to report a man in "military black fatigues combo camo stuff" carrying a handgun outside the bank. The caller said he suspected the person was legitimate.
Kearney's attorney, Matthew Adams, said his client was wearing his standard security guard uniform and duty rig, which included a handgun holstered to his hip.
When George arrived at the scene, he ordered Kearney to freeze and drop to his knees before he put the barrel of the gun against Kearney's head and threatened him. Adams has said Kearney complied with every order and did not make any threatening movements.
In his lawsuit, Kearney stated he tried to explain his employment, his certifications and his reason for being in the area with a holstered weapon, but George allegedly screamed at him to "shut the (expletive) up" and "I will (expletive) kill you."
According to the suit, Kearney was already kneeling on the ground when George placed the barrel of his gun against Kearney's head and neck region, and yelled "if you move, I will put a bullet in your (expletive) head. I will blow your (expletive) head off."
During this incident, Kearney alleges he detected the smell of alcohol on George's breath.
"Mr. Kearney looks forward to his day in court," Adams said. "It saddens a law enforcement supporter like Mr. Kearney to be put in the position of having to take such action, but the conduct at issue here is beyond the pale."
George, according to the lawsuit, left the scene quickly once other officers arrived, and other officers did not "engage in any meaningful debriefing of Officer George to ascertain what had occurred."
Kearney alleges in his lawsuit other Chatham police officers at the scene apologized to him for George's conduct, and that one officer commented that George "marches to the beat of his own drummer."
Roy George, Chatham Borough's traffic safety officer, was demoted from sergeant in 2010 for misplacing his loaded gun following a night of drinking
However, a supervisory officer who arrived at the scene allegedly "made a comment to another of the additional responding officers that they had to take certain steps (to) ensure that the events of that morning were documented in such a way to suggest that that Mr. Kearney got (expletive) with them," according to the lawsuit.
"This outrageous statement by a responding supervisory officer was captured on video and audio recording equipment employed by certain of the responding officers," the lawsuit stated. "Those directives from a supervisory officer on the scene were clearly calculated as a means by which to attempt at portraying Officer George's conduct as warranted or justified."
Kearney was not arrested or charged in connection with this incident. Two months later, he filed a notice of tort claim with the borough.
Borough police have previously said the incident was being investigated by the Morris County Prosecutor's Office, but the case stalled as authorities did not interview Kearney until July 25, more than seven months after the incident. Another witness, a Hudson County police officer on the phone with Kearney at the time of the incident, wasn't interviewed until nearly a year later.
No criminal charges were filed against George by the prosecutor's office and the case was never submitted to a grand jury, but an internal affairs investigation found George failed to properly record the incident and report it to his superiors.
That internal affairs investigation also found George used "discourteous conduct" but cleared him of the more serious charges of being under the influence of alcohol and excessive force.
The borough police department hasn't stated what punishment George received.
Messages placed to Police Chief Phillip Crosson and Borough Administrator Robert Falzarano on Monday afternoon haven't yet been returned.
George was hired by the department in 2010 and earns $126,953 annually.