On December 5, 2020, U.S Army 2nd Lt. Caron Nazario, who is Black and Latino, was pulled over while in uniform by Windsor Police Officers Joe Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker.
A lawsuit from Nazario was filed on April 2, 2021. Filed in the U.S District Court for Eastern Virginia in Norfolk, the lawsuit states that the officers violated Nazario’s constitutional rights and are seeking compensation and punitive damages.
Recent body camera footage has been released to the public. The footage shows that the officers pulled over Nazario who pulled over in a well-lit gas station. In Officer Crocker’s report of the incident, it states that the driver was ”eluding police,” which he considered a high-risk traffic stop. According to Nazario, he was not eluding the police, he was trying to pull over in a well-lit area for his safety, as well as for the safety of the officers.
The vehicle that Nazario was driving was new, he didn’t have permanent license plates. He used temporary plates that were taped inside the rear window of the vehicle. The plate was visible for the officers to see when they reached Nazario’s car, according to the lawsuit.
Nazario showed fear, he said, “I’m honestly afraid to get out of the car,” shown in the body camera footage. The officers followed it by threatening to arrest him for disobeying their orders to get out of his car and for “obstruction of justice,” the footage shows. Nazario spoke to the officers stating, “I’m actively serving this country and this is how you’re treating me?” The officers followed that by pepper-spraying Nazario in the face. At that point, he was afraid to make any further moves, “I don’t want to reach for my seatbelt, can you please? … My hands are out, can you please — look, this is really messed up,” Nazario says.
There was a point during the encounter when Officer Gutierrez seemingly referenced the electric chair. The footage shows the officer saying, “fixin’ to ride the lightning.” The officers then followed with physical violence by striking Nazario’s fists, knees, and hands, forcing him onto his face, and placed Nazario in handcuffs. “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 …” the lawsuit states.
Officer Gutierrez had been terminated since the incident, and Officer Crocker still works for the department, according to The Virginian-Pilot.
On Sunday, April 11, 2021, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam called the incident “disturbing” and that it had angered him. He directed that the state police conduct an independent investigation of the incident that occurred. Virginia State Police have opened a criminal investigation regarding the incident.