The U.S. Army officer who was stopped at gunpoint and pepper-sprayed by two Windsor, Virginia police officers is now suing the men for violating his constitutional rights during a traffic stop last December that went viral when the body camera footage of the incident was posted online.
Caron Nazario is a second lieutenant in the Army who was pulled over when the officers noticed that his newly purchased vehicle with tinted windows did not have license plates in the usual spots on the car.
Nazario, a Black Latino, was in full uniform when he was pulled over, but the officers were apparently annoyed that he waited until he was in a clear, well-lit area at a gas station before complying with their request.
The Army lieutenant claims that he did so “for officer safety and out of respect for the officers,” but the law enforcement officers presumably didn’t see it that way.
Once Nazario pulled into the gas station the temporary license plates posted in his rear window were clearly visible, but rather than apologizing for the mistake, the Windsor police officers involved, Daniel Crocker and Joe Gutierrez, instead pulled out their service weapons and pointed them at Nazario while ordering him to exit his vehicle.
The distraught service member facing the barrels of the officers’ guns replied that “I’m honestly afraid to get out” of his car, stating that “I have not committed any crime.”
The police officers, undeterred by Nazario’s army uniform, ignored his pleas and the fact that their initial rationale for the traffic stop had been mooted by the sight of the temporary license plates.
“You’re being stopped for a traffic violation. You’re not cooperating, and at this point, right now, you’re under arrest,’ one of the officers insisted. “You’re being detained for obstruction of justice.”
What happened next is the primary reason for Nazario’s lawsuit alleging that the police abused their power and violated his constitutional rights against illegal search and seizure.
After an attempt to open the car’s door to drag Nazario from the vehicle, Gutierrez had enough of what he likely saw as a refusal to submit to his authority and pumped multiple doses of pepper spray into the innocent suspect’s face.
You can watch the body camera footage of the unfolding of the incident below:
The obviously distraught Nazario slammed the violent and potentially racist behavior of the police officers in his lawsuit saying that the body camera footage demonstrated “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.”
Hopefully, the lawsuit will force the Windsor, Virginia police department to sanction the officers for their behavior and prevent incidents like this from taking place again in the future.
.Original reporting by Celine Castronuevo at The Hill.
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Vinnie Longobardo is the Managing Editor of Occupy Democrats. He's a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music, and art.