Windsor, Virginia Police Chief Rodney Riddle has said no apology is owed to the Black Army officer who had a gun aimed at him during a traffic stop.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Riddle told reporters an investigation into the incident was launched just three days after the traffic stop, which happened on Dec. 5, 2020. The clip went viral earlier this month, showing officers Joe Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker initiating a traffic stop against Black and Latino man Caron Nazario, who is a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Medical Corps. The two officers approached his car with guns drawn, then giving conflicting instructions and pepper-spraying him. He was threatened with different charges and violence throughout the incident.
Gutierrez was disciplined in January after the investigation concluded, but it wasn’t until the body cam footage went viral that Riddle fired him. “As this thing kind of gathered legs and became viral, I personally felt there was personally no way he could effectively serve the community at that point,” Riddle said, as NBC 12 reports. He stopped short of offering an apology, but did say the officers “missed opportunities to verbally de-escalate that thing and change the outcome.”
The chief also seemingly placed some of the blame on Nazario, who continually asked what was happening throughout the traffic stop to no clear answer. “I’m honestly afraid to get out,” Nazario told one of the officers in the clip. The reply he received was, “Yeah, you should be.”
Riddle continued, “Lieutenant Nazario took certain actions that created where we got to, and I think that you know…we’ll let the courts work that part of it out. … At the end of the day, I’m glad nobody got hurt. That situation ended in the best way that it could have. I wish he would have complied a whole lot earlier.”
In a statement shared following the press conference, Nazario’s attorney Jonathan Arthur denounced Riddle’s comments. “The statements from the Police Chief of Windsor today demonstrate the systemic policing issues that generate civil rights violations across the country,” said Arthur. “The Chief continues a false narrative and victim-blaming. He claims Second Lieutenant Nazario did not comply. The video shows otherwise.”
Some are also calling for the resignation of Riddle. “After watching the press conference held by officials in the Town of Windsor regarding the incident involving Lt Nazario we are appalled at some of the statements made by the Town officials as well as the Chief of Police,” stated the Isle of Wight Branch of the NAACP. “Therefore we are calling for the immediate resignation of Chief Rodney Riddle.”
Nazario filed a lawsuit against the two Virginia police officers last month. In the suit, he asserts that his constitutional rights were violated during the traffic stop, and has alleged they were “unprofessional, discourteous, racially biased, [and] dangerous.” He refused to leave the vehicle during the incident, citing concerns for his safety.