Windsor, VA – A U.S. Army officer has filed a lawsuit against two Virginia police officers who held him at gunpoint and pepper-sprayed him during a traffic stop last year (video below).
The incident occurred on Dec. 5, 2020 when Winsor Police Department officers stopped U.S. Army Second Lieutenant Caron Nazario in his newly-purchased Chevrolet Tahoe for not having license plates, CBS News reported.
Bodycam video showed temporary license plates were displayed on the inside of the SUV’s rear window, but the windows were tinted so the temporary tags weren’t immediately visible.
Nazario’s lawsuit said that he was on his way home from a drill weekend when he saw police lights flashing behind his vehicle, but he continued driving for about a mile to stop at a gas station because he was afraid to stop on the dark road, The New York Times reported.
Bodycam video showed that after Nazario stopped his vehicle, police ordered him to step out of the SUV with their weapons drawn.
Windsor Police Officer Daniel Crocker wrote in the police report that he thought the driver was “eluding police” and considered it a “high-risk traffic stop,” WTOP reported.
“Get out of the car,” one officer yelled in the video.
The video showed Nazario stuck his hands out of the driver’s window but refused to get out of his vehicle.
“I’m honestly afraid to get out of the car,” Nazario told the officers when two of them approached his driver’s side.
“Yeah,” Windsor Police Officer Joe Gutierrez replied in the video. “You should be.”
Nazario, who is a member of the U.S. Army Medical Corps, was wearing his uniform when he was stopped, the bodycam showed.
“I’m serving this country and this is how I’m treated?” Nazario asked the officers. “What’s going on?”
“What’s going on is you’re fixing to ride the lightning, son,” Officer Gutierrez yelled, according to The New York Times.
Nazario’s lawsuit alleged the officer was referring to the electric chair. The phrase “ride the lightning” is common police slang for being tased.
Officers deployed pepper spray in Nazario’s face through the open car window, the bodycam showed.
Nazario began crying and cursing and followed commands to get out of his vehicle.
“What are you? A specialist? Corporal? What are you?” Officer Gutierrez yelled in the video.
“I’m a lieutenant,” Nazario replied calmly.
Then bodycam showed the officers grabbed the man and by his arms and took him to the ground.
Nazario filed a lawsuit on April 2 in U.S. District Court in Norfolk that accused the officers of excessive force and civil rights violations, The New York Times reported.
Windsor police officials announced Sunday that Officer Gutierrez had been fired after an internal investigation had determined that the officer violated department policy.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced he had launched an outside review of the incident, The New York Times reported.
“The incident in Windsor is disturbing and angered me — and I am directing the Virginia State Police to conduct an independent investigation,” Northam said in a statement released on April 11. “Our Commonwealth has done important work on police reform, but we must keep working to ensure that Virginians are safe during interactions with police, the enforcement of laws is fair and equitable, and people are held accountable.”
Watch the incident unfold in the video below. WARNING – Graphic Content and Obscene Language: