Lawsuit: Virginia Police Officers Pepper Spray, Beat Mixed-Race Army Lieutenant

2. Lt. Caron Nazario claims he was stopped and sprayed with pepper for driving without a license plate – even though his vehicle was new enough not to need a permanent set.

A mixed army officer has filed a lawsuit against two Virginia police officers who allegedly brutalized him during a routine traffic obstruction.

According to CNN, the complaint was made by 2nd Lt. Caron Nazario who is Black and Latino. He is seeking $ 1 million in damages against both officers, stating that they violated his first and fourth amendment rights.

The two officers were identified as Joe Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker.

The encounter, CNN says, was taped by multiple cameras, including officers’ body cameras.

According to CNN, Nazario was stopped for a missing license plate. When Gutierrez and Crocker tried to initiate the stop, Nazario allegedly drove on.

Nazario later said that he was simply trying to find a place to drive past safely. Gutierrez and Crocker, however, said Nazario’s apparent reluctance to slow down led them to view the encounter as a high-risk traffic stop.

Nazario eventually stopped, however – and Gutierrez himself later said that many motorists will drive short distances to provide an extra level of safety for themselves and the officers.

Image of police brutality via Pixabay. Public domain.

When Nazario’s vehicle stopped and the two Windsor officers approached his vehicle, they had already drawn their service weapons – which made Nazario react with fear.

“To be honest, I’m scared of coming out,” Nazario can be heard saying.

“Yes,” replied Gutierrez, “you should be.”

The officers continued to push Nazario out of the car.

“I am actively serving this country and how will you treat me?” asked Nazario, who was in uniform. Moments later, CNN says, officials appear to be shooting pepper spray in his face.

The entire time, Nazario kept his hands in the air, saying he was physically unable to obey the officers’ orders – and continued to fear that they might misinterpret his actions and open fire.

“I don’t even want to reach for my seat belt, can you please …?” Said Nazario. “My hands are outstretched, can you please – look, this is really messed up.”

In his lawsuit, Nazario and his lawyers find that the two officers used excessive force, despite having no reason to believe that the lieutenant even committed a crime. In fact, Nazario had driven a brand new vehicle – still close enough to the date of purchase not to need permanent license plates.

The temporary paper plate that Nazario had attached to the rear window is visible in several places in the officers’ body cam video.

“These cameras captured behavior consistent with a disgusting national trend of law enforcement officers believing they can work with impunity and who commit unprofessional, rude, racially biased, dangerous and sometimes fatal abuse of authority,” the lawsuit said.

Ironically, Gutierrez’s police report shows that he let Nazario go without charge for not wanting to hurt Nazario’s military career.

“I made the decision to release him without charge,” wrote Nazario. “The reason for this decision is simple; The military is the only place where there is a double threat. Whatever happened in a civil court, the military could still take action against him. As a military veteran, I didn’t want his career to be ruined by one wrong decision. “


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