One of the two police officers who pepper-sprayed and aimed their guns at a Black Army lieutenant has been fired; the town of Windsor, Virginia announced on Sunday (April 11). In a statement, the town said that an internal investigation found that officers Joe Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker violated the Windsor Police Department’s use-of-force policy during their confrontation with Second Lt. Caron Nazario, resulting in Gutierrez’s termination.
“The Town of Windsor prides itself in its small-town charm and the community-wide respect of its Police Department,” the statement said. “Due to this, we are saddened for events like this to cast our community in a negative light. Rather than deflect criticism, we have addressed these matters with our personnel administratively, we are reaching out to community stakeholders to engage in dialogue and commit ourselves to additional discussions in the future.”
News of the officer’s firing follows Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s call for an independent investigation into the Virginia State Police due to the incident.
“Our Commonwealth has done important work on police reform, but we must keep working to ensure Virginians are safe during interactions with police, the enforcement of laws is fair and equitable and people are held accountable,” the governor said in a statement after calling the incident “disturbing” in a tweet.
As reported by REVOLT, the confrontation between officers Gutierrez and Crocker and Lt. Nazario occurred during a traffic stop last December. Nazario, who is Black and Latino, was traveling home when he was stopped by police. The two officers immediately drew their guns upon pulling Nazario over and ordered him to get out of the car.
“I’m honestly afraid to get out,” Nazario said at the time, declining to get out of the car. One officer replied, “Yeah, you should be,” and proceeded to pepper-spray and drag Nazario out of his car. Video from Nazario’s cell phone and the officers’ body cameras also showed one cop shoving his knee into Nazario as he can be heard repeating, “This is fucked up.”
Earlier this month, Nazario filed a lawsuit against the two cops claiming they violated his Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights. Police say the Army officer was pulled over for not having a rear license plate, though Nazario says the car was new and instead had a temporary tag placed in the back window. Nazario believes he was pulled over because of his race.
“He’s a sworn member of the United States Army. He swears an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies foreign and domestic — and the way these officers behaved, this implicates the oath that he takes,” the suit reads.