ISLE OF WIGHT COUNTY, Va. - The Town of Windsor has issued a statement in regards to a traffic stop incident involving an Army Lieutenant. Officials say as a result of the incident, one of the officers was fired.
Caron Nazario is suing two Windsor police officers over a December 2020 traffic stop during which the officers drew their guns, pointed them at him and used a slang term to suggest he was facing execution.
Footage from the incident was released and left many outraged including state and local leaders. The footage shows Nazario being pepper-sprayed, threatened, and assaulted by Windsor police officers.
Governor Northam released a statement on this footage and directed State Police to conduct an independent investigation into the Windsor officers.
"The Town of Windsor, Virginia, acknowledges the unfortunate events that transpired on December 5, 2020 involving Lt. Caron Nazario and officers of the Windsor Police Department, Joe Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker," the statement reads.
Town officials say as a result of pepper spray being used, the department's policy requires an internal investigation into the actions. Officials say that the investigation began immediately after the incident, resulting in the termination of Officer Gutierrez.
Officials did not state if Officer Crocker faced any disciplinary action.
Town officials say the investigation also resulted in department-wide requirements for additional training that began in January.
"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. The Town will continue to provide information related to this event in its commitment to openness," the statement reads.
The Town has joined Northam and other local and state leaders to request an investigation conducted by State Police. State Police tweeted Sunday that they have initiated the investigation into the officers.
"The Town of Windsor prides itself in its small-town charm and the community-wide respect of its Police Department. 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," the statement ends with.
Isle of Wight County Sheriff's Office released the following statement Saturday night:
Hours before the bombshell announcement of Gutierrez’s firing came out, calls for an investigation into the traffic stop grew louder.
“I think it’s going to take a chorus of voices continuing the calls for more transparency, more accountability and eliminating the institutional and systemic racism that appears to pervade out law enforcement agencies in this Commonwealth,” said Del. Jeff Bourne.
Del. Bourne is a member of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus (VLBC). The group was one of the firsts to call for accountability and a thorough review of the two officers involved.
“Clearly this is yet the latest example of Black and brown people being treated extremely differently by our law enforcement officers. 39,” Bourne said. “They swear to protect and serve but that level of service, that level of protection seems to vary by the hue of your skin.”
U.S. Army 2nd lieutenant Nazario was in uniform when he was pulled over by Windsor officers on Dec. 5, 2020 for a missing rear license plate. Nazario’s attorney said a temporary tag was visible in the back window of his SUV.
Police body cameras were rolling as two officers yelled for Nazario to get out of the car.
Nazario can be heard on video saying, “I’m actively serving this country and this is how you’re going to treat me? I didn’t do anything.”
Nazario was forcibly pulled out of the car.
Rick James, a criminal analyst and 27-year veteran of the Norfolk Police Department said the video is disappointing.
“There was a lot of errors that was made, I think, with the law enforcement,” he said.
What struck James the most is the roles of the officer and citizen were seemingly revered.
“Relax,” Nazario can be heard saying on bodycam as officers were yelling commands. “Can you please relax?”
“Instead of the officer trying to deescalate and calm things down, the driver of the vehicle is really trying to calm the officer down and deescalate,” said James. “He was talking v calmly, wasn’t raising his voice. He was clearly asking, hey, what am I being stopped for?”
James said the excessive use of force wasn’t justified.
“Pulling your gun out is deadly force,” he said. “I’m not sure they had anything to indicate a felony traffic stop.”
According to the police report, the officers said Nazario didn’t comply with multiple commands and drove about a mile down Route 460 before pulling over. Nazario said he wanted to pull over to a well-lit area.
“He was driving very slow, letting officers know he wasn’t trying to elude,” James said. “Every citizen has the right to pull over where they feel safe.”