Sunday, May 19, 2024

Black- Latino Army Officer Files a Lawsuit After 2 Virginia Police Officers Used Excessive Force

2nd Lt. Caron Nazario, an Afro- Latino Army officer, is suing two Virginia police officers for $1 million after they pointed guns at him, pepper sprayed him, and pushed him to the ground during a traffic stop for what the police officers believed it was a missing license plate on his new SUV.

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court, claims unlawful seizure, excessive force, illegal search, and violation of First Amendment right to free speech, common law assault, battery, and false imprisonment.  Earlier this week, Town Manager William Saunders confirmed that Joe Gutierrez, one of the police officers, has been fired following an investigation regarding the incident because of the use of excessive force.

A statement released said, “At the conclusion of this investigation, it was determined that Windsor Police Department policy was not followed. This resulted in disciplinary action, and department-wide requirements for additional training were implemented beginning in January and continue up to the present. Since that time, Officer Gutierrez was also terminated from his employment.” Footage of the incident has drawn condemnation from many, including Virginia Governor Ralph Northam who called the incident “disturbing”.

“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” said Northam.

The officers ultimately released Nazario without charges, however, the lawsuit claims they “engaged in conduct to extort” Nazario’s silence by saying that unless he were to “remain silent” the officers would charge him with multiple crimes and “destroy his military career.” In the bodycam footage, Gutierrez is heard telling Nazario that he has spoken with the police chief and had two options; the officers could either wait with him until he could drive home, “go do your deployment, go continue serving my country” and release him without charges or they could “push the issue”, write him a ticket for no license plate display and charge him with obstruction of justice.

In his report, Gutierrez wrote that he chose to let Nazario go because he knew the military could take action against Nazario. Nazario’s lawsuit says that the footage is an indication of a wider trend among police officers in the U.S. The lawsuit says, “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, (including issuing unreasonable comply-or-die commands,) ignore the clearly established mandates of the Constitution of these United States and the state and local laws, and usurp the roles of legislator, judge, jury, and executioner; substituting the rule of law for their arbitrary and illegal conduct.”