police brutality
April 14, 2021

U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Caron Nazario has filed a lawsuit alleging two Virginia police officers violated his constitutional rights and assaulted him following a traffic stop in December.

As it turns out, the 27-year-old Nazario, who is Black and Latino, was related to Eric Garner, the Black man who died in Staten Island in 2014 after an officer placed him a chokehold. Garner's last words were, infamously, "I can't breathe."

Nazario called Garner his uncle, The Washington Post notes, though their exact relation, aside from sharing a cousin, is unclear. He also grew up around the corner from Garner's mother, Gwen Carr, in Brooklyn.

After Garner's death, their mutual cousin told Nazario the news and reportedly reminded him that if he was ever confronted by a police officer, he needed to "stay calm, comply, never make them feel threatened," the Post writes. As footage captured by Nazario's phone and the officers' body cameras suggests, Nazario did just that during the arrest despite the escalating situation. Carr told the Post she believes that composure and Nazario's decision to drive to a well-lit area, while unable to spare him from drawn guns and pepper spray, kept him alive. Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

April 12, 2021

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." Peter Weber

February 27, 2021

The Associated Press has obtained internal Louisiana State Police records that represent the first public acknowledgment that Ronald Greene, a 49-year-old black man who died in custody in May 2019, was mistreated.

The cause of Greene's death remains unexplained and is the subject of a federal civil rights investigation. Per AP, the records reveal that body camera footage — which has not been released — shows Master Trooper Kory York dragging Ronald Greene "on his stomach by the leg shackles" after a violent arrest and high-speed pursuit, and an attorney representing Greene's family who has reportedly seen the video told AP that other troopers can be seen choking, beating, and jolting Greene with stun guns. Police initially claimed Greene died as a result of a car crash.

York, who turned his own body camera off on the way to the scene (he said it was beeping loudly and he forgot to turn it back on), was suspended without pay for 50 hours after an internal investigation. Col. Lamar Davis, the State Police's new superintendent, reportedly told York he "would have imposed" more severe discipline, but the suspension was handed out by his predecessor who stepped down last year amid a series of scandals, AP reports. Read more at The Associated Press. Tim O'Donnell

February 24, 2021

Reps. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) and Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) announced Wednesday that they're reintroducing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which, if passed, would lead to a series of federal police reforms, including a ban on chokeholds and measures to alter qualified immunity. The House is expected to vote on it next week.

The lower chamber did pass the bill last June, but it was dead on arrival in the Senate, which was still controlled by the GOP at the time. It remains unclear if it will pass now that the Democrats have a narrow majority since there, but Bass said there's "renewed hope" it will become law. Tim O'Donnell

February 23, 2021

A grand jury has decided Rochester, New York police officers will not be charged in the death of Daniel Prude, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced Tuesday.

In March 2020, Prude's family called police after he ran out of their home and into freezing weather amid what seemed to be a mental health crisis. Video of the incident made public months later showed police putting a spit hood over Prude's head and holding him down for several minutes. Prude's death was later ruled a homicide by asphyxiation.

James expressed disappointment with the decision when revealing it at a Rochester church, saying she and her team had "sought a different outcome" when presenting Prude's case to a grand jury. Her team had taken over prosecution of the case after it appeared the RPD had tried to downplay Prude's killing to avoid "violent blowback," and seemingly modified documents to make Prude, a Black man, seem more threatening.

The September release of the video of Prude's death sparked protests in Rochester, continuing the wave of racial justice protests that had started earlier that summer. Rochester's police chief and other top leaders stepped down at the time, and the officers involved in the case were suspended and have yet to be reinstated. Earlier this month, Rochester police also came under fire for pepper spraying a 9-year-old Black girl who wouldn't get into their car. Kathryn Krawczyk

February 22, 2021

A new independent investigation commissioned by the city of Aurora, Colorado, "offered stunning details into the countless missteps" leading up to and following the death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old unarmed Black man who died following an altercation with police officers in August 2019, reports The Daily Beast.

The report, which was not carried out with the intent of assessing whether misconduct occurred, concluded the three Aurora officers involved did not have any legal basis for confronting McClain, whom they placed in a carotid hold while he said he couldn't breathe. It also found that paramedics who arrived on scene failed to properly examine McClain before sedating him (even though he had passed out) with a dosage of ketamine that represented a "grossly inaccurate" estimation of his weight.

In the aftermath of McClain's death, the report suggests internal police investigators failed to ask the officers involved basic questions, instead seemingly designing their interrogation to "elicit specific exonerating 'magic language' found in court settings ... In addition, the report of the Major Crime Unit stretched the record to exonerate the officers rather than present a neutral version of the facts. It is hard to imagine any other persons involved in a fatal incident being interviewed as these officers were."

One of the three officers was fired from the force, while the other two were placed on "non-enforcement" duties, though they have not faced any criminal charges. Read more at The Daily Beast. Tim O'Donnell

February 1, 2021

Rochester, New York, is reckoning with another case of police brutality after the release of a disturbing body camera video released Sunday.

On Friday, police responded to a report of "family trouble" at a home in the city, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reports. The mother of a nine-year-old girl said the child was threatening to harm herself and others, Deputy Police Chief Andre Anderson said at a press conference. Video appears to show that police eventually took the girl to the ground, handcuffed her, and then pepper sprayed her when she refused to put her feet in the patrol car.

After police catch up with the girl, video shows her being taken to the snowy ground. She tells the police officer to "get off of me," but he says he will not. She is eventually handcuffed, and constantly screams that she wants to see her dad as police try to get her in the car. Police eventually get the girl seated with her feet outside the car, but while one officer says they'll get her father, others tell her they "don't care" what she wants. At one point, the officers tell the girl she's "acting like a child," to which she responds "I am a child." An officer is then heard saying "just spray her at this point," and someone seems to spray a chemical irritant in her face.

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren has yet to promise any concrete changes after the video's release, but asked "everybody to understand, to hear, listen, empathize, most of all, to act differently." Activists with Free the People Roc are meanwhile demanding the officers be fired.

Daniel Prude, a 41-year-old Black man, died of asphyxiation in Rochester police custody last March after police put a spit hood over his head. Prude's killing sparked protests in September after body camera footage of the incident was released. The city created a mental health crisis team after Prude's death, but Warren said they were dispatched elsewhere during this recent call. Kathryn Krawczyk

October 7, 2020

Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged in George Floyd's killing, was released from prison Wednesday on a $1 million conditional bond.

Chauvin was fired from the force and later charged with second-degree murder after he kneeled on Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes. He was held in a state prison, but posted a non-cash $1 million bond to be released with conditions Wednesday, CBS Minnesota reports.

Chauvin was charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter in Floyd's killing; prosecution records also showed Chauvin had several excessive force incidents before this one. Chauvin's bail was set at $1.25 million, but he could be released for $1 million if he agreed not to contact Floyd's family or work in law enforcement or security again. His lawyers have pointed to Floyd's "significant conditions" like heart disease and a bout with COVID-19, as well as fentanyl and methamphetamine in his body to explain his death, which the county medical examiner has disputed. Chauvin been held in the Oak Park Heights state prison for the past few months as he awaited his trial for Floyd's murder, which will begin in March.

Thomas Lane, Tou Thao, and J. Alexander Kueng, the other officers who helped Chauvin hold Floyd down or stood by as he did, were charged with aiding and abetting murder. Kathryn Krawczyk

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