A homeowner who grabbed a rifle from his house and fired warning shots in a confrontation with a group of men on his lawn faces criminal charges, but his family said he was defending his home from a threatening mass of strangers.
George Grier, 30, fired rounds into the ground and air from an assault-style rifle after arguing with a large group of men gathered outside his Long Island home Sunday evening, Nassau County police said Monday. No one was hurt.
Police arrived at the home quickly because they were alerted by the high-tech new "ShotSpotter" system, which pinpoints gunshots fired in the county, officials said.
His sister, Caprice Rines, said Grier feared for the safety of his wife and two small children when about 20 men converged on his Uniondale lawn after two of them began quarreling. He didn't know the men, who ignored his requests to leave and kept approaching the house, she said.
"They were swarming on the property," so he got a hunting rifle he had bought at a sporting-goods store, she said. "He felt like: 'I have to protect my family.'"
The encounter stirred memories of the case of John White, a black Long Island homeowner who shot a white teenager in his driveway in 2006. White had confronted a group of teens who were spewing racial epithets and feuding with his son. White said his pistol went off accidentally. It happened in Riverhead, about 55 miles east of Uniondale.
White said he brandished the weapon because he feared a Ku Klux Klan-style attack on the family; an appeals court upheld his manslaughter conviction, saying he should have called police instead of getting a gun. White was sentenced to two to four years in prison.
Grier is black; the men on his lawn were Hispanic, according to police and his sister, who said members of their family had demonstrated in support of White.
Grier was arrested on reckless endangerment and weapons possession charges. He was released on $10,000 bond after his arraignment Monday, his sister said. His lawyer and prosecutors didn't immediately return telephone calls.
A FedEx worker, Grier is the grandson of a local minister and is a church deacon himself, his sister said. He and his wife have two daughters, 2 and 1.
"This is blowing our minds, that he's being arrested for this," Rines said. "You're talking about a family that are believers, and we believe we have the right to bear arms."
He bought the rifle for self-defense amid concern about recent shootings in the area, she said.