Virginia Cop Who Pulled Over Black Army Lieutenant At Gunpoint Fired
The other officer is still employed by the police department.
April 12, 2021 at 10:49 pm
Update (April 12, 2021): A Virginia police officer who was caught on video holding a Black Army lieutenant at gunpoint was fired following Governor Ralph Northam’s requests for an independent investigation.
As Blavity previously reported, officers Joe Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker pulled over Caron Nazario, an active military officer for driving without a rear license plate in his newly purchased Chevy Tahoe on Dec. 5.
"At the conclusion of this investigation, it was determined that Windsor Police Department policy was not followed,” a statement released by the town on Sunday read, according to CNN. “This resulted in disciplinary action, and department-wide requirements for additional training were implemented beginning in January and continue up to the present."
Town Manager William Saunders confirmed to CNN that Officer Crocker remains employed by the Windsor Police Department, but Gutierrez was terminated.
In addition to drawing their firearms, the two officers used pepper spray after they antagonized Nazario, who admitted that he was afraid to exit the car. Nazario subsequently filed a lawsuit seeking $1 million in compensatory damages, alleging the two police officers violated his rights guaranteed under the First and Fourth Amendments.
The statement also mentioned that the town is taking measures to rectify the situation and is employing integral conversations to prevent instances like this from occurring in the future.
“The Town of Windsor prides itself in its small-town charm and the community-wide respect of its Police Department,” the statement read, according to ABC News. “Due to this, we are saddened for events like this to cast our community in a negative light. Rather than deflect criticism, we have addressed these matters with our personnel administratively, we are reaching out to community stakeholders to engage in dialogue, and commit ourselves to additional discussions in the future.”
Gov. Northam shared on Twitter how the encounter between the officers and Nazario was “disturbing” and “angered” him.
“Our Commonwealth has done important work on police reform, but we must keep working to ensure Virginians are safe during interactions with police, the enforcement of laws is fair and equitable, and people are held accountable,” Northam wrote, before adding that “we must all continue to the larger dialogue about reform in our country.”
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring called the incident "unacceptable" in a tweet Saturday.
My statement on the encounter between Lieutenant Caron Nazario and two officers from the Windsor Police Department: pic.twitter.com/GcfL5YeIRm— Ralph Northam (@GovernorVA) April 11, 2021
“Incidents like this are unacceptable. 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,” he wrote."The video doesn't show anything to justify how Lt. Nazario was treated," he added.
Original (April 10, 2021): A disturbing bodycam video that was released this week shows two police officers in Windsor, Virginia, pulling over a Black Army Lieutenant and holding him at gunpoint before attacking him with pepper spray. The lieutenant, Caron Nazario, was going home in his newly purchased Chevy Tahoe on Dec. 5 when the officers pulled him over and started barking orders, demanding he get out of the SUV, Vice reported.
The bodycam video shows officers pursuing the driver and stopping him at a gas station.
"How many occupants are in your vehicle?" one officer shouted from a distance while pointing his gun towards the car. "Open the door. Get out the car. Open the door slowly and get out."
Nazario, who looked in the mirror and saw that he was being held at gunpoint, placed his cellphone on the dashboard to record the encounter. The driver kept his hands up and repeatedly asked to know what was going on as police approached closer with the gun still pointed. Nazario also admitted to being afraid to exit the car.
“Yeah, you should be,” one of the officers responded as they continued to shout orders.
As the veteran tried to plead his case, telling the officers that he is actively serving the country and hasn't done anything wrong, police attempted to open the car door. The officers then used pepper spray as the driver remained in the car.
"My dog is in the back. My dog is choking right now," Nazario said as the tension continued to escalate.
When he came out of the car, police wrestled the man to the ground.
"Why am I being treated like this?" he said. "Please tell me what's going on. This is f**ked up. This is f**ked up."
Nazario, a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, was in full uniform as he was coming home from work. He's now suing the two officers, Joe Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker.
“He’s a sworn member of the United States Army. He swears an oath to support to defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies foreign and domestic—and the way these officers behaved, this implicates the oath that he takes,” said Jonathan Arthur, an attorney for Nazario.
According to the lawsuit, which alleges violations of the constitutional rights under the fourth and first amendments, Nazario was accused of driving without a rear license plate. The complaint adds that the new car had a temporary plate taped to the inside of the rear window.
The officers said Nazario was “eluding police” while driving with a dark window tint. They also said the incident was treated as a “felony traffic stop” because he was driving with a plate. The lawsuit, however, states that police were not “willing or able to articulate why they had initiated the traffic stop.”
Police allegedly hit the veteran with “knee-strikes” after forcing him out of the car.
Crocker is accused of searching the SUV “without permission or authority." The officer allegedly found a gun in the car and “radioed the serial number back to dispatch to see if the firearm was stolen.”
Gutierrez said in a report that he released the man without charges.
"The reason for this decision is simple; the military is the only place left where double jeopardy applies. Meaning that regardless of what happened in civilian court the military could still take punitive actions against him,” Gutierrez said. “Being a military veteran, I did not want to see his career ruined over one erroneous decision.”
According to ABC7, Arthur said Nazario is "definitely not doing too well" after the incident.
"Graduated from Virginia State University. He was commissioned out of their ROTC program," the attorney said. "He's an officer in the United States armed forces. These guys decide to do this to him."