The governor of Virginia, attorney general, a congressman and the NAACP expressed outrage over the actions of Windsor police officers who aimed guns, sprayed pepper spray and threatened a black and Latin American military officer during a videotaped traffic stop in December.
Army Lt. Caron Nazario filed a lawsuit against police officers Joe Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker last month, and the video from the officers’ body cameras and Nazario’s cell phone has gone viral in the past few days.
Nazario is demanding $ 1 million plus punitive damages from the officers, saying they have violated his constitutional rights.
Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law, said the videos raise questions about whether officers were overreacting and using more force than necessary.
The videos “make it seem that Lt. Nazario has a compelling case,” Tobias USA told TODAY.
Officers said in the police report that they stopped Nazario’s Chevrolet Tahoe because it did not have a rear license plate, although the report confirms that officers later noticed a temporary sign in the rear window.
The video shows the officers ordering Nazario, who was in uniform, to leave his vehicle in front of a gas station while he held his hands up through the driver’s side window. Nazario said he was afraid of getting out of the SUV, blasted with pepper spray and forced to the ground. Nazario was released at the scene and not charged.
“Although Nazario was shocked by the ferocity of these defendants and the very real possibility that the defendants might murder him for failing to comply with their contradicting demands, Lt. Nazario remained calm, put his hands in front of the window and continued to quietly question the defendants why they dragged him over and to explain what was going on, “the lawsuit said.
Gutierrez told Nazario that he was “determined to ride the lightning, my son” – a reference to the electric chair.
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The lawsuit says the officers threatened to destroy the lieutenant’s military career with “unfounded” criminal charges if he reported them for misconduct.
Video from the scene “captured footage of behavior consistent with a disgusting national trend of law enforcement officers believing they can operate with impunity, engaging in unprofessional, rude, racially biased, dangerous and sometimes fatal abuse of authority,” Suit says.
Attorney General Mark Herring said he saw nothing in the videos to justify how the officers treated Nazario.
“Incidents like this are unacceptable,” Herring said in a statement. “As our office continues to monitor the situation, the Windsor Police Department needs to be fully transparent about what happened during the stop and what was done in response to it.”
Windsor has a population of around 2,600 and a police force of six, according to its website. The police were unavailable for comment on Sunday, and the mayor and councilors did not respond TODAY to a request for comment from the US.
Governor Ralph Northam said on Twitter that the encounter was “worrying” and called on state police to conduct an independent investigation.
“Our Commonwealth has done important work on police reform, but we must continue to work to ensure that Virginians are safe when interacting with the police,” he said in a statement calling for “greater dialogue on reform in our country.” “was invited. ”
Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., Whose district is Windsor, said he was “appalled” by the video. Scott noted the area is still grieving for Donovan Lynch, who was killed by officers in nearby Virginia Beach last month while her body cameras were off.
The local NAACP announced that it is opening an investigation by the Windsor Police Department.
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The video is evidence of “what the NAACP has been saying all along,” the Isle of Wight branch said in a statement. “The video shows that our judiciary is still being abused by police officers and we are very concerned.”
The group said it had the support of the NAACP state and other officials.
“Please know this does not go unaddressed,” said the group. “We’re done dying. We’re not going to stand still while another African American’s civil rights are violated.”