Virginia police officer fired after violent stop of Black Army officer. Governor calls for state investigation.
The town of Windsor, Virginia, said Sunday that one officer has been fired and another disciplined over an arrest in December that went viral on social media over the weekend. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) said earlier Sunday that video of the traffic stop, in which Army Lt. Caron Nazario was pepper-sprayed at gunpoint by two officers, "is disturbing and angered me," and he said he has directed the Virginia State Police to investigate the incident. Nazario, who is Black and Latino, is also suing the officers, Joe Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker, in federal court.
Gutierrez and Crocker pulled Nazario over in Windsor on Dec. 5, 2020, because his brand new SUV did not have permanent license plates. At one point, Nazario, in his Army uniform, told the officers he was afraid to get out of the car, video from Nazario's cellphone and the officers' body cameras show. "Yeah, you should be," one of the officers responded. Gutierrez, who pepper-sprayed Nazario inside his car before arresting him, did not follow Windsor police procedures and was "terminated from his employment," the town of Windsor said in a statement. Nazario was released without charge.
In a federal lawsuit filed April 2, Nazario argues excessive force by the officers violated his constitutional rights and says the officers threatened to end his military career if he spoke out about the arrest, The Washington Post reports. He is seeking at least $1 million in damages.
Windsor, a town of about 2,600 about 30 miles west of Norfolk, "acknowledges the unfortunate events that transpired," and "department-wide requirements for additional training were implemented beginning in January and continue up to the present," Windsor officials said in a statement Sunday night. "The Town of Windsor prides itself in its small-town charm and the community-wide respect of its police department," the statement added. "Due to this, we are saddened for events like this to cast our community in a negative light."