Cop Who Pepper Sprayed Black Army Officer At Traffic Stop Has Been Fired
A police officer has been fired after pepper-spraying and pointing his gun at a US Army lieutenant during a traffic stop in Virginia.
Officers Joe Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker, of the town of Windsor, Virginia, encountered US Army Second Lieutenant Caron Nazario as he was in his vehicle during the stop at a petrol station in December 2020.
Bodycam footage of the incident showed Nazario, who is Black and Latino, dressed in uniform and holding his hands in the air outside of the driver’s window. He told police he was ‘honestly afraid to get out’ of his SUV, to which one responded: ‘Yeah, you should be!’
See footage from the incident below:
The town of Windsor requested an investigation by Virginia State Police after Nazario filed a lawsuit against the two officers this month, in which he claimed he was pepper-sprayed and knocked to the ground.
The officers are also accused of drawing their guns, pointing them at Nazario and using a slang term to suggest he was facing execution, The Guardian reports.
In a statement released on Sunday, Windsor officials said an internal investigation into the use of force was conducted following the incident and determined that department policy was not followed. Disciplinary action was taken and Gutierrez has since been fired from the department.
The statement read, in part:
The Town of Windsor prides itself in its small-town charm and the community-wide respect of its Police Department. Due to this, we are saddened for events like this to cast our community in a negative light.
Officials added that department-wide requirements for additional training had been implemented in January.
Nazario’s attorney, Jonathan Arthur, said the lieutenant was on his way home from his duty station when the incident took place. Crocker radioed that he was attempting to pull over his vehicle after which Gutierrez, who was in the area, saw him attempting to stop the SUV and decided to join the stop.
Nazario says his rights were violated during the incident, though the two sides dispute what happened after Gutierrez joined Crocker.
In a report cited by ABC News, Crocker wrote that he believed Nazario was ‘eluding police’ and described the encounter as a ‘high-risk traffic stop.’ Meanwhile, Arthur told the Associated Press that Nazario was actually trying to stop in a well-lit area – not trying to elude the officer.
The lawsuit claims that Gutierrez responded with ‘knee-strikes’ after Nazario exited the vehicle, causing him to fall to the ground. The two officers then reportedly struck Nazario multiple times before handcuffing and interrogating him.
Referring to footage recorded on the body cameras and Nazario’s cellphone, the lawsuit says: ‘These cameras captured footage of behavior consistent with a disgusting nationwide trend of law enforcement officers who, believing they can operate with complete impunity, engage in unprofessional, discourteous, racially biased, dangerous and sometimes deadly abuses of authority.’
In a tweet posted on Sunday, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam described the encounter as ‘disturbing’ and said he had directed State Police to review what happened.
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