Virginia Police Officer Fired After Pepper Spraying Soldier During Traffic Stop

A Virginia police officer has been fired after allegedly pepper-spraying a Black and Latino military officer and forcing him to the ground last December,  the Town of Windsor announced in a statement Sunday.

Army Lt. Caron Nazario is now suing police officers Joe Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker over December’s incident. Video from the officer’s body cameras and Nazario’s cellphone have since gone viral.

The Windsor statement reported that Gutierrez had been fired and that an immediate investigation was to follow. 

“At the conclusion of this investigation, it was determined that Windsor Police Department policy was not followed,” the statement read. “This resulted in disciplinary action, department-wide requirements and additional training were implemented beginning in January and continue up to the present.” 

Virginia’s governor, attorney general, a congressman and the NAACP have condemned the actions of the Windsor police officers. 

Nazario said his constitutional rights have been violated, and is subsequently suing Gutierrez and Crocker for $1 million plus punitive damages. 

The officers stated in a police report that they had stopped Nazario’s Chevrolet Tahoe because it did not have a rear license plate, though the report does acknowledge that the officers later noticed a temporary license plate displayed in the back window. 

Video then shows the officers ordering Nazario, who was in uniform, to exit his vehicle outside a gas station with his hands up. Nazario said he was afraid to get out of the SUV and was then pepper-sprayed and forced to ground. Gutierrez told Nazario he was “fixin’ to ride the lightning, son,” which is often a reference to the electric chair, the suit says. The term can also refer to the use of a stun gun on a suspect. 

The suit goes on to state, “Though Nazario was shocked at the ferociousness of these defendants and the very real possibility that the defendants may murder him because he could not comply with their inconsistent demands, Lt. Nazario remained calm, kept his hands outside the window, and continue to calmly ask the defendants why they pulled him over, to explain what was going on.” 

Additionally, the suit also says the officers threatened to destroy Nazario’s military career with “baseless” criminal charges if he reported the them for misconduct. 

Attorney General Mark Herring said he saw nothing in the videos that justifies how Nazario was treated. 

“Incidents like this are unacceptable,” Herring said in a statement. “As our office continues to monitor the situation, the Windsor Police Department needs to be fully transparent about what happened during the stop and what was done in response to it.” 

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