Police Officer Fired After Threatening Black Army Officer During Traffic Stop

State author­i­ties in Virginia will inves­ti­gate an encounter cap­tured on body cam­era that appears to show a police offi­cer threat­en­ing to exe­cute a Black Army offi­cer dur­ing a traf­fic stop, offi­cials said Sunday.

The announce­ment from the Virginia State Police came after Gov. Ralph Northam said he was “angered” by the inci­dent, which occurred on Dec. 5 on a road about 30 miles west of down­town Norfolk.

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,” he said.

Northam added that he would invite the U.S. Army offi­cer, Lt. Caron Nazario, for a meet­ing to dis­cuss police reform.

In a state­ment, a state police spokes­woman said the department’s super­in­ten­dent had been in touch with the gov­er­nor and Rodney Riddle, the police chief of Windsor, where the con­fronta­tion occurred.

At Chief Riddle’s request and the Governor’s direc­tive, the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation is ini­ti­at­ing a thor­ough and objec­tive crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tion into the Dec. 5, 2020 traf­fic stop con­duct­ed by the Windsor police offi­cers,” she said.

Windsor’s town man­ag­er said in a state­ment that an inter­nal inves­ti­ga­tion found that the offi­cers who pulled Nazario over — Joe Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker — did not fol­low depart­men­tal pol­i­cy. They were dis­ci­plined and ordered to take addi­tion­al train­ing, said the man­ag­er, William Saunders.

Gutierrez was lat­er fired, Saunders said.

The town of Windsor has remained trans­par­ent about this event since the ini­tial stop, and has open­ly pro­vid­ed doc­u­ments and relat­ed video to attor­neys for Lt. Nazario,” he said

The department’s super­in­ten­dent had been in touch with the gov­er­nor and Rodney Riddle, the police chief of Windsor, where the con­fronta­tion occurred.

At Chief Riddle’s request and the Governor’s direc­tive, the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation is ini­ti­at­ing a thor­ough and objec­tive crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tion into the Dec. 5, 2020 traf­fic stop con­duct­ed by the Windsor police offi­cers,” she said.

Windsor’s town man­ag­er said in a state­ment that an inter­nal inves­ti­ga­tion found that the offi­cers who pulled Nazario over — Joe Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker — did not fol­low depart­men­tal pol­i­cy. They were dis­ci­plined and ordered to take addi­tion­al train­ing, said the man­ag­er, William Saunders.

Gutierrez was lat­er fired, Saunders said.

The town of Windsor has remained trans­par­ent about this event since the ini­tial stop, and has open­ly pro­vid­ed doc­u­ments and relat­ed video to attor­neys for Lt. Nazario,” he said.

US Army Lieutenant Caron Nazario was driving his newly-purchased Chevy Tahoe home when two police officers pulled him over in Windsor, Va.on December 5, 2020.

In a fed­er­al civ­il law­suit filed last week, Nazario said he was dri­ving in a new­ly pur­chased Chevrolet Tahoe when he encoun­tered police on U.S. Highway 460 in Windsor. He was in uni­form at the time of the stop.

Nazario, who is Black and Latino, con­ced­ed in his com­plaint that he did­n’t imme­di­ate­ly pull over. He instead put on his emer­gency lights and con­tin­ued for anoth­er 100 sec­onds, dri­ving under the speed lim­it, so he could safe­ly park in a well-lit gas sta­tion park­ing lot less than a mile down the road.

That’s when Windsor police Officers Joe Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker pulled guns on Nazario, who was accused of dri­ving with­out license plates, accord­ing to the law­suit and body cam­era footage.

Nazario insist­ed he fol­lowed police com­mands to keep his hands out­side the win­dow, but offi­cers alleged­ly became agi­tat­ed when he asked what jus­ti­fied the esca­lat­ed pullover.

What’s going on? You’re fix­in’ to ride the light­ing, son,” Gutierrez said, accord­ing to the law­suit and body cam­era video.

This is a col­lo­qui­al expres­sion for an exe­cu­tion, orig­i­nat­ing from glib ref­er­ence to exe­cu­tion by the elec­tric chair,” Nazario’s attor­ney Jonathan Arthur wrote in the lawsuit.

Virginia recent­ly out­lawed cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment, but put pris­on­ers to death via the elec­tric chair for more than a cen­tu­ry. The last pris­on­er to meet that gris­ly fate was Robert Charles Gleason Jr., 42, who plead­ed guilty to two prison mur­ders and threat­ened to con­tin­ue killing until he received the death penal­ty. He was elec­tro­cut­ed on Jan. 16, 2013.

Nazario told police that he was “hon­est­ly afraid to get out” of his SUV, video of the inci­dent showed, before Officer Gutierrez replied, “Yeah, you should be!”

Footage also showed Nazario being pep­per-sprayed mul­ti­ple times, “caus­ing him sub­stan­tial and imme­di­ate pain,” the law­suit said. It also led to “sub­stan­tial prop­er­ty dam­age to Lt. Nazario’s vehi­cle and choked Lt. Nazario’s dog, who was sit­ting in the rear of Lt. Nazario’s vehi­cle, secured in a crate,” accord­ing to the suit.

Gutierrez respond­ed with knee-strikes to Lt. Nazario’s legs to force an already com­pli­ant and blind­ed Lt. Nazario down on his face osten­si­bly to hand­cuff him

Arthur wrote. “Notwithstanding the fact that Nazario was on the ground and in tears, Gutierrez and Crocker con­tin­ued to strike Lt. Nazario.”

The offi­cers lat­er warned Nazario not to com­plain about their treat­ment of him, threat­en­ing to crim­i­nal­ly charge him, the law­suit said. If the lieu­tenant would “chill and let this go,” then no charges would be filed, accord­ing to Arthur.

Nazario was ulti­mate­ly not crim­i­nal­ly charged or cit­ed for any traf­fic vio­la­tion, his attor­ney said. A new vehi­cle tag was clear­ly vis­i­ble in Lt. Nazario’s rear win­dow, Arthur claimed.

The offi­cers could not be imme­di­ate­ly reached for com­ment through pub­licly list­ed phone numbers.

A town man­ag­er told the Virginian Pilot that the offi­cers still work for the police department.