Brett Slavin thinks Gregory Gawrysiak could be a catalyst for change in Haddon Township.
Slavin, 25—a neighbor of Gawsrysiak, who was arrested Thursday after police kicked in his door in the first block of Emerald Avenue—said he and his neighbors are "tired of being pushed around by cops in Haddon Township."
"They have badges and they throw their weight around," Slavin said. "If anything Greg can be a catalyst, a wake up call. It's always the first nail that gets hammered."
Gawrysiak, 46, is an apprentice linesman for Amtrak, authorities said. Amtrak representatives were on hand at his arrest. Officials said Thursday Gawrysiak is part of the Sovereign Citizen Movement, which believes federal and state governments lack legitimate authority.
The cadre of municipal and state police from two states who arrested him Thursday say Gawrysiak is an "anti-government extremist" who possessed illegal firearms and had previously threatened to harm law enforcement.
But Slavin and another Emerald Avenue neighbor paint a different picture.
They say Gawsrysiak is a little "eccentric." They say he may talk a little too loud and invade your personal space when he talks to you, but he's not a threat to his neighbors or police and was only exercising his right to free speech.
"He's nothing to worry about," said another neighbor, who declined to give his name as he poured a 50/50 mixture of antifreeze into his idling pickup truck early Friday morning. "He may be a little goofy, but he's a typical American, venting about the government. He's harmless."
Haddon Township police Capt. George Tagmire sees it differently.
"They did what their investigation told them to do," Tagmire said Friday morning. "They executed a search warrant and made an arrest. I can't comment on if the neighbors agree with it or not."
Tagmire also said he was not aware of any complaints about police behavior from any neighbors on Emerald Avenue. He said the investigation also included references to more than two dozen You Tube videos Gawrysiak has posted.
All of the videos have a caption that read:
HOW TO FIGHT THESE DOMESTIC ENEMY'S AND KICK THEM OFF OUR LAND, I USE LEGAL DOCUMENTS AND THEIR OWN RULES TO FIGHT THESE CORRUPT TRAITORS, NO JURISDICTION, NO STANDING, NO CAPACITY, NO CAUSE OF ACTION, NO REAL INJURED PARTY..."YOUR EITHER WITH US "THE PEOPLE" OR YOUR WITH THEM!, THE DOMESTIC ENEMY'S! MAKE YOUR CHOICE, "I HAVE" I'M WITH THE "GOOD PEOPLE OF MANKIND" THIS PEOPLE, THIS LAND!
For all the bluster and hubbub of this high-profile arrest, the evidence cited for it is not overly compelling.
Tagmire said the Haddon Township police launched an investigation of Gawrysiak three months ago with the Camden County Prosecutor's Office after they learned he "was a subscriber to the philosophies of the Sovereign Citizen Movement, a school of thought which argues federal and state governments lack legitimate authority."
In 2010, Gawrysiak surrendered a gun to township police after an anonymous witness in a Wawa convenience store parking lot said they heard him mutter something about killing a cop, Tagmire said.
He wasn't charged with a crime then, but the recent investigation revealed the gun he turned in two years ago was an illegal assault rifle. Subsequently, police learned Gawrysiak had obtained a false Pennsylvania driver's license last year and bought guns illegally in Philadelphia.
Thursday's raid turned up an illegal, unregistered pistol at his home on Emerald Avenue. A relative then tipped off police about three more guns—a handgun, shotgun and rifle—that were being kept at Gawrysiak's brother's home in Mantua. Those weapons were confiscated without his brother being charged.
Stephen Gawrysiak, 19, Gregory's son, was also arrested Thursday during the raid and charged with possession of a "small amount" of marijuana with intent to distribute, Tagmire said. Gregory's wife and a juvenile daughter were also home during the 8 a.m. raid.
Gregory Gawrysiak's bail was set at $500,000 and he was held at the Camden County Jail. It was not immediately reported if Stephen Gawrysiak was held.
Slavin shook his head Friday morning after he lit a Marlboro and flicked an ash into a glass tray full of cigarette butts on his front porch, next to Gawrysiak's home.
"When they first went to his house all they had was one unregistered weapon," he said. "That's a paperwork error. You telling me they have the right to embarrass you over paperwork?
"No, they reacted to it because of what he believes in. Where does that stop?"