Recorded on video shooting OC spray directly into the face of a U.S. Army Lieutenant with his empty hands in the air, two Virginia police officers have recently been named in a civil rights lawsuit. According to the complaint, the officers wrote false statements in their police reports to justify the use of excessive force without making an arrest.
Shortly after 6:30 p.m. on December 5, 2020, Caron Nazario, a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, was driving home in his newly purchased 2020 Chevy Tahoe when Windsor Police Officer Daniel Crocker initiated a traffic stop for driving without a rear license plate and tinted windows. As Lt. Nazario activated his turn signal and slowed down to stop at a well-lit BP gas station, Officer Crocker contacted dispatch via police radio and relayed that the vehicle was slowing down and appeared to be complying.
According to police body cam footage, Crocker ordered Nazario to place his hands outside the vehicle window when Officer Joe Gutierrez arrived at the scene. Despite the fact that Nazario complied by putting his empty hands out the window, both officers continued to escalate the situation by aiming their guns at him and issuing contradicting commands.
As one officer ordered Nazario to exit the vehicle, the other cop continued shouting at him to keep his hands outside the window. In the video, the officers were clearly close enough to Nazario’s vehicle to see the temporary license plates taped to the inside of the Tahoe’s rear window.
“What’s going on?” Nazario, who was wearing his military fatigues, kept asking them.
“What’s going on is your fixin’ to ride the lightning, son,” Gutierrez threatened while switching to his Taser and aiming it at Nazario’s face.
After the officers refused to answer why Nazario was being detained, Gutierrez shot OC spray directly into his face for not immediately getting on the ground during a routine traffic stop. As Nazario exited the vehicle, the officers reportedly kicked him in the back of the legs and repeatedly struck him on the ground.
Nazario kept telling the officers that his dog was in the vehicle and choking due to the OC spray. When asked if Nazario had a gun in the vehicle, he confirmed the location of his firearm within the Tahoe. The officers immediately ran the serial number but discovered that it was legally registered to Nazario.
According to Nazario’s complaint, the officers attempted to extort his silence in exchange for not initiating an illegal prosecution. After releasing Nazario without charges, the officers allegedly filed false reports accusing the Army Lieutenant of wantonly disregarding the lights and siren of Crocker’s patrol car, refusing to put his hands outside the vehicle window, not displaying his temporary license plates, and other fabrications.
“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 said.
According to the lawsuit, the incident was recorded on at least three separate cameras. Crocker and Guiterrez recorded footage on their police body cameras, while Nazario used his cellphone to record the violent encounter.
Police officials have confirmed that both officers continue to work for the department.