WINDSOR, Va. — One of two police officers accused of pepper-spraying a Black and Latino officer in the U.S. Army and drawing their weapons during a December traffic stop has been fired by the town of Windsor.
Windsor officials announced the officer’s termination in a statement issued late Sunday, joining calls from elected officials, including Gov. Ralph Northam, that the Virginia State Police investigate the traffic stop that prompted Caron Nazario to file a lawsuit earlier this month against officers Joe Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker.
Specifically, Nazario’s suit alleges excessive force due to racial profiling, The Washington Post reported.
In addition to pointing their weapons at Nazario and dispersing a chemical irritant, the officers are also accused in the suit of using a slang term to suggest he faced execution, The Associated Press reported.
The statement issued by Windsor officials acknowledged the “unfortunate events that transpired” and noted a police investigation proved department policy was not followed during the encounter, the Post reported.
“This resulted in disciplinary action, and department-wide requirements for additional training were implemented beginning in January and continue up to the present,” the statement said. “Since that time, Officer Gutierrez was also terminated from his employment.”
Meanwhile, Northam on Sunday called the body camera footage of the incident “disturbing,” noting it “angered” him to see Nazario, 27, pepper-sprayed, struck and handcuffed in the video.
“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,” Northam said in a statement.
Windsor is located about 30 miles west of Norfolk.
According to Nazario’s lawsuit, the health services administrations officer with the Virginia National Guard was driving a newly purchased sport utility vehicle on Dec. 5 when the officers stopped him and demanded he exit the vehicle, citing the lack of a permanent license plate.
When Nazario told officers Gutierrez and Crocker he was “honestly afraid to get out” of the car, one of the officers replied, “Yeah, you should be!” the suit stated.
According to the Post, the federal suit was filed in the Eastern District of Virginia on April 2, and Nazario is seeking at least $1 million in damages. Specifically, he is requesting the court to rule that Gutierrez and Crocker violated his constitutional rights and claims the pair threatened to end his military career if he spoke out about the incident, the outlet reported.
Nazario was ultimately released without any charges.
-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.