An Afro-Latino army officer accused two Virginia officers of violating his constitutional rights during a Dec. 20 traffic stop in a new lawsuit filed earlier this month.
Captured footage shows the disturbing incident where Second Lieutenant Caron Nazario, a member of the U.S. Army Medical Corps, was pepper-sprayed and forcefully removed from his car while officers pointed their guns at him through his SUV window.
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*The below video can be triggering to some viewers and contains explicit language.
The officers, Daniel Crocker and Joe Gutierrez, are members of the Windsor Police Department.
The footage of the confrontation was captured by Nazario’s cell phone and the two officer’s body cameras. Crocker was the initial officer who pulled Nazario over and was later joined by Gutierrez who joined the traffic stop after he rode by.
According to the suit, Nazario says he was stopped while driving his brand-new car on the way home from his job at the duty station. Police claim they pulled Nazario over because he was driving his SUV with darkly tinted windows and no rear license plate.
The cops can be heard giving Nazario conflicting demands by telling him to put his hands out the window, while also shouting that he exit the vehicle.
Nazario, who is seen wearing his army fatigue during the confrontation calmly asks why he’s being stopped. “I’m serving this country, and this is how I’m treated?” he says.
When Nazario said he was afraid to exit the vehicle, an officer can be heard saying “Yeah, you should be,” in response.
Before Nazario can exit, Gutierrez sprays him with pepper spray four times, ultimately hindering Nazario from complying with the officer’s demands.
“You made this way more difficult than it had to be if you had just complied,” the officer says.
In the video Nazario understandably becomes emotional as the officers aggressively remove him from the vehicle, striking him in the knees while forcing him to the ground.
“Can you please tell me what’s going on? Why am I being treated like this?” Nazario asks.
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“This is really messed up,” Nazario repeatedly states, his voice cracking from emotion.
In his report, Crocker claims Nazario was being elusive and thwarted the attempt to pull over, but Nazario says that was far from the case, he wanted to stop in a well-lit area for “officer safety and out of respect for the officers.”
“These cameras captured footage of behavior consistent with a disgusting nationwide trend of law enforcement officers, who, believing they can operate with complete impunity, engage in unprofessional, discourteous, racially-biased, dangerous and sometimes deadly abuses of authority,” the lawsuit states, obtained by the Associated Press.
According to the Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk, both officers remain on duty. Attempts by the AP to contact the Windsor Police Department and Officer Crocker went unreturned.
“Graduated from Virginia State University,” Nazario’s attorney, Jonathan Arthur told the AP. “He was commissioned out of their ROTC program. He’s an officer in the United States armed forces. These guys decide to do this to him.”
“He’s definitely not doing too well,” Arthur said in regards to Nazario’s mental and emotional state.