Two Windsor, Virginia police officers are facing a civil lawsuit after assaulting and threatening a Black Army Lieutenant during an illegal traffic stop that took place last December.
According to documents filed Friday in the U.S. District Court for Eastern Virginia in Norfolk, the incident began when officers Joe Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker initiated a traffic stop against Caron Nazario, a Black and Latino man who is a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Medical Corps.
The officers pulled Nazario over because they alleged he did not have a license plate on the rear of his newly purchased Chevrolet Tahoe. According to the lawsuit, Gutierrez and Crocker “approached with guns pointed at the car, gave opposing instructions to a uniformed soldier behind the wheel, and then pepper-sprayed him – all while threatening him with different charges and levels of violence for non-compliance according to body camera footage and legal filings, the officers.”
While the officers barked out orders, Nazario repeatedly asked to know what was going on. At one point, he even stated that he was afraid to leave the vehicle. “Yeah, you should be,” Gutierrez responded. The officers attempted to pull Nazario out of the vehicle, before pepper spraying him in the face multiple times. After exiting his vehicle, Nazario asked for a supervisor. The two officers responded with “knee-strikes” to his legs, then handcuffed and interrogated him, the lawsuit says.
According to the legal filings, the officers told Nazario that if he “would chill and let this go,” they would release him without filing any charges. Afterward, both Gutierrez and Crocker filed reports with “near identical” misstatements, reporting that Nazario refused to show his hands and slapped theirs away when they tried to get him out. Gutierrez wrote that he gave knee strikes to Nazario’s legs because he wouldn’t get on the ground and resisted arrest.
The lawsuit alleges that the officers didn’t have probable cause to charge Nazario with any crimes, the stop was illegal and that the officers threatened to ruin the Army officer’s military career should he file charges against them. Nazario has sued Gutierrez and Crocker, claiming violations of his constitutional rights under the Fourth and First Amendments.