Chelsea officer John Gravallese: Haunted by decision to go to King Arthur’s

John Gravallese is still serving as a Chelsea police officer.
Steven A. Rosenberg/Globe Staff
John Gravallese is still serving as a Chelsea police officer.

John Gravallese wonders what his life might be like now if he wasn’t working the overnight shift on July 23, 1982.

Of the six Chelsea police officers to respond to King Arthur’s Motel around 4:30 that morning, Gravallese is the only one left on the department. That day, he was 33 and a four-year veteran of the squad. At 63, Gravallese could have retired years ago, but he wants to stay on the force.

When he arrived at King Arthur’s that morning, he was told that an Everett policeman was in trouble. “Basically, people were running all over the place. We had no idea who it involved or what it involved. By the time I got there all they said was there were people in a room, and it was 209, and they had barricaded themselves in,” said Gravallese.


He assisted in breaking the door down and then stood around in the hallway with other Chelsea cops. Gravallese said he did not enter Room 209, where several men were severely beaten by three Everett policemen. One, an Everett man who had been sleeping in the room, later died of his injuries.

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Following the attack, Gravallese, along with the five other Chelsea cops, agreed to file false reports and wrote that they never entered King Arthur’s.

In 1984, Gravallese and four of his colleagues admitted falsifying the reports and agreed to a plea bargain. The men were suspended without pay for 22 months; Michael Nadworny, another Chelsea police officer who had falsified a report and was acquitted on several counts of assault and rights violations, was not rehired by the Police Department.

In the years after King Arthur’s, Gravallese struggled. The trial, the suspension, and the legal fees cost him $125,000. His marriage fell apart.

When he returned to work, he said, he was told not to bother taking a promotional exam.


“I never took an exam because Chelsea politics has deep roots,” he said.

Looking back, Gravallese wishes he had not filed the false report. “I wish I hadn’t been there, and the way I settled it in my mind was to say I wasn’t there.”


Steven A. Rosenberg can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @WriteRosenberg.