Police: Giant Food Store cashier choked over smashed chips

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch
Bradley Alan Bower

A Giant Food Store customer angry that a cashier was apparently being careless with his snack chips confronted and choked the man, police allege.

Bradley Bower, 55, of the 1400 block of Brandt Avenue in New Cumberland, was arraigned on a charge of simple assault at his preliminary hearing Wednesday, April 3, according to court records. The case was held for court, and Bower was released on his own recognizance.

Fairview Township Police filed charging documents against Bower on Feb. 13 for the alleged Feb. 2 assault in the Giant at 130 Old York Road. The store is on the border of York and Cumberland counties.

Police said they were called to the grocery store about 8:20 p.m. — the night before the Super Bowl — where they found Bower in the manager's office.

Bower told officers that while he and his wife were getting checked out, he asked the cashier — Neil Lerch Jr. — not to "throw his groceries around," according to charging documents.

"Bower stated that he had several bags of chips and that he didn't want them to get all smashed up," Fairview Township Officer Christopher Bickel wrote in those documents. "Bower said the cashier put the bags of chips in with (canned) goods and he was smashing the chips that Bower was purchasing."

After paying for his groceries, Bower asked Lerch whether he had a problem, which prompted Lerch to reply, "Do you?" police said. 

Bower then became angry and grabbed the cashier, charging documents allege.

Had a bad day: "(Bower) stated that he ... put his hand around the cashier's throat," documents state. "Bower stated that he knew he was in the wrong. He said he was having a bad day and this issue with the chips just sent him over the edge."

Lerch declined medical attention at the scene but had red marks on his neck and throat that looked as if they were going to turn into bruises, according to charging documents.

While speaking with an officer, Lerch was having trouble clearing his throat, as if he was in pain, police said.

"I asked Neil how much pressure was applied to his throat by Bower and he stated that it was not hard enough to make him pass out," Bickel wrote in documents.

Security footage of the encounter shows Bower also pushed Lerch up against his cash register, documents state.

Defense attorney Joseph Kalasnik, who is representing Bower, was unavailable for comment, according to a staff member in his office.

Bower did not return a phone message seeking comment.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.