Video: Police Draw Guns, Pepper-Spray Army Officer In Traffic Stop

Police officer Joe Gutierrez of Windsor, Virginia
Police officer Joe Gutierrez of Windsor, Virginia
Police officer Joe Gutierrez (body cam image: Windsor Police via AP)

A U.S. Army officer, 2nd Lt. Caron Nazario, has filed a lawsuit against two Virginia police officers saying they violated his constitutional rights when they approached him with guns drawn and pepper-sprayed him during a traffic stop in December.

The incident, which has gone viral today due to released body cam footage, shows the two officers approaching Nazario’s vehicle shouting conflicting orders of “keep your hands out the window” and “open the car door and get out.”

According to police reports, the traffic stop began when Windsor officer Daniel Crocker said he was pulling the vehicle over due to no rear license plate. However, once Nazario pulled into the gas station the new car tags were visible.

As you can see in the footage, Nazario asked over and over again why the officers were escalating the situation.

As the officers approached the SUV with their guns drawn shouting at him to get out of the vehicle, Nazario answered, “I’m honestly afraid to get out.”

“Yeah, you should be!” yelled one of the officers.

(screen capture from body cam footage via Windsor Police)

More from The Hill:

According to the AP, Windsor police officer Daniel Crocker radioed the station saying he was attempting to pull over a vehicle with tinted windows that appeared to not have a rear license plate.

Crocker reportedly labeled it a “high-risk traffic stop,” as he claimed the driver was “eluding police.”

However, Nazario denied that he was trying to escape the officer, instead saying at the time that he was driving home from his duty station and wanted to stop in a well-lit area “for officer safety and out of respect for the officers.”

Another officer, Joe Gutierrez, responded to Crocker’s call for help and joined him in the traffic stop.

After one of the officers attempted to open the car door, Gutierrez then stepped back and pepper-sprayed Nazario multiple times.

At one point, Gutierrez can be heard telling Nazario he was “fixin’ to ride the lightning,” a reference to the electric chair and a line from the movie “The Green Mile,” in which a Black man is facing execution.

According to the Associated Press, Gutierrez acknowledged that Nazario’s decision to drive to a lighted area happens to him “a lot, and 80% of the time, it’s a minority.”

The AP reached out to the Windsor Police Department for comment but received no response. Both officers reportedly still work for the department.

In subsequent footage, another officer told Nazario he understood he might be nervous due to “the whole BLM movement.”

Video: Boston Cop Brags About Driving Into Protesters

NowThis News shares this report of vehicles being used to attack protesters across the country.

In the first clip, a Boston police officer boasts about driving his car through a crowd of protesters. At the 30 second mark, the officer he’s bragging to turns away once he realizes his buddy has just confessed on an active body cam.

‘I’m f*cking hittin’ people with the car,’ says the police officer.

The short video goes on to note other violent attacks on protesters with vehicles.

Note – I’m definitely not anti-cop. I am anti-bad cop. These jokers make life much harder for the good guys.

News Round-Up: September 28, 2020

Some news items you might have missed:

Outsports: Major League Baseball ended its regular season on Sunday after a COVID-shortened 60 games and for the first time since the 2016 season, there were no players involved in any recorded, on-field anti-gay controversies. Granted, we still have the playoffs to go, but the only notable incident involved Cincinnati Reds announcer Thom Brennaman.

NY Daily News: A Bronx man is accused of hacking to death with a machete a man he met on Grindr — and his roommate walked in on the bloody aftermath. Juan Alonso, 50, was charged Monday with murder, manslaughter and criminal possession of a weapon. Cops are still trying to identify his victim.

Insider: Two New Jersey police officers pleaded guilty last week to smashing windows and slashing tires on cars owned by a man who had complained about them. As a part of the plea agreement, neither men will be able to work public service in the state.

Politico: A new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll found that just 20 percent of voters said that they believed the winner of the presidential election will be called on election night, while 66 percent said they expect it to happen sometime later, 19 percent believe it will be the next day, and 26 percent believe it will be between two and seven days after the polls close.

•  The Hill: A new New York Times/Siena College poll shows Joe Biden leading Donald Trump in the vital battleground state of Pennsylvania by 9 points (49-40). The RealClearPolitics average of polls shows Biden with a 5.3 percentage point lead in the Keystone State.

Netflix: Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, an organization near and dear to my heart, invites you to “Grab a drink (or two) with the spectacular cast of Netflix’s The Boys in the Band during #SipInWithTheBoys!” The livestream at 8 pm Eastern on October 2 benefits Broadway Cares and The Actors Fund.

Insurance Company Denies Benefits To Family Of Sheriff’s Deputy After COVID-19 Death

L-R Deputy Shannon Bennett his fiancé, Jonathan Frey

The family of Shannon Bennett, the gay Broward Sheriff’s deputy who died from COVID-19 in April, has been denied insurance benefits covering his death. A 12-year veteran deputy, Bennett became the first South Florida first responder to be killed by COVID-19.

Insurance giant AIG denied the family’s claim for accidental death in the line of duty last month. 

According to Local10News, Bennett’s family received a letter from AIG saying the company had reviewed the claim and determined Bennett’s death didn’t occur in the line of duty. AIG’s position, according to the letter, is that Bennett’s “death was caused in whole or in part by, or resulted in whole or in part from sickness or disease, which is specifically excluded under this policy.”

Shannon’s brother, Darren Bennett told Local 10 News, “Essentially, while my family is grappling with trying to get our bearings back, this type of letter comes in and, of course, it floors us.”

The Broward County Sherriff’s Office sent an appeal on behalf of the family as the BSO believes Bennett, who was 39-years-old, contracted COVID-19 while on duty. That appeal was denied a couple of weeks later. 

AIG acknowledged that Bennett did likely contract the virus while in the line of duty, but held firm on the decision not to deny his benefits.

Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony released a statement which read in part:

“One of the most difficult tragedies to endure in this profession is a line of duty death. We are committed to helping the Bennett family. We pay thousands of dollars each year for this insurance, and I’m extremely disappointed that AIG is denying this claim. We will exhaust all appeals.”

Bennett was engaged and planned to marry his fiancé, Jonathan Frey, in December.

The fight over Bennett’s insurance benefits is just the latest chapter in a series of ugliness surrounding his death. 

NBC News reports that Dale Engle,  the South Florida police chief who came under fire in April for a homophobic rant referencing Bennett, has tendered his resignation after officers brought the incident up to the Florida police union.

According to several deputies in attendance, Engle ordered his employees to line up in formation in a department parking lot and began to berate officers who raised concerns about coronavirus protocol. 

During the rant, Engle referenced Bennett’s death telling the officers Bennett died because he was “a homosexual who attended homosexual events.” 

He was placed on administrative leave, and this week Engle resigned over the incident.

Good.

Video: Police Slashed Tires Of Vehicles Parked Near Protests

Video footage discovered by Mother Jones shows what appears to be police officers slashing the tires of several cars parked in Minneapolis over the weekend.

From Mother Jones:

After long nights of tear gas and rubber bullets, some protesters, news crews, and medics in Minneapolis last weekend found themselves stranded: The tires of their cars had been slashed.

In a city upended by protests about police brutality after the death of George Floyd, many assumed protesters were to blame. But videos reveal a different culprit: the police.

In the videos, officers puncture tires in a K-Mart parking lot on May 30 and a highway overpass on May 31. Both areas briefly turned into police staging grounds near protest hot spots.

The officers appear to be state troopers or county police, though it’s not clear from the videos. Neither the Minnesota State Patrol nor the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office responded to requests from Mother Jones. The Minneapolis Police Department and Minnesota National Guard denied involvement.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported after the Mother Jones story that a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety acknowledged State Patrol troopers “strategically deflated tires in order to stop behaviors such as vehicles driving dangerously and at high speeds in and around protesters and law enforcement.”

The spokesman, Bruce Gordon, added vehicles “that contained items used to cause harm during violent protests” such as rocks, concrete, and sticks were targeted.

“While not a typical tactic, vehicles were being used as dangerous weapons and inhibited our ability to clear areas and keep areas safe where violent protests were occurring,” said Gordon.

Anoka County Sheriff’s Lt. Andy Knotz also confirmed deputies from Anoka County followed state orders and joined the patrol and also cut the tires on vehicles.

Knotz said the deputies got their directions from the state-led Multiagency Command Center [MACC], which has been coordinating law enforcement during the numerous protests since the death of George Floyd on May 25.

Officer Benson Churgai Makes History In The City Of Brotherly Love

Benson Churgai (screen capture)

As the latest class of police recruits gathered at the Police Academy in Philadelphia to pose for their class photo last week, newly-minted police officer Benson Churgai shared a personal secret with his fellow graduates.

Addressing his classmates from a prepared speech, Churgai began, “I want to be honest with everyone here. In April 2016, I made a decision that was best for me. I came out as a transgender male.”

“I struggled for a long time with who I was,” he continued. “I knew that if I continued to live my life as [a] female, it was not going to work out.”

Over the next few minutes, the 24-year-old explained he’d “rather have a discussion with everybody” in an effort to “help prevent feelings of betrayal.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports Churgai’s class responded with a rousing standing ovation.

In coming out to his fellow graduates, he becomes the first transgender recruit to graduate from the Philadelphia Police Academy. Churgai notably graduated as the salutatorian of his class.

Before Churgai’s announcement, only a few commanders involved in recruitment and training were aware he was transgender.

“I wanted to go through the academy like every other recruit,” Churgai told local ABC News affiliate WPVI. “I didn’t want people to know I was transgender because I didn’t want to be treated differently. I wanted to be held to the same standards as everybody else.”

“Sometimes it seems that your hopes and dreams are not possible when you come out as transgender, but it is possible,” added Churgai. “It is possible to be who you want to be and do the career you want to have, it’s possible. Just because your trans it doesn’t mean you can’t.”

Philadelphia Police Inspector Verdell Johnson, who supervises the recruits, told the Inquirer Churgai was selected solely “on his ability to pass a rigorous background test and physical training.”

Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw told the Inquirer among his department’s top priorities is to “ensure that our ranks are diverse, inclusive, and reflective of the communities we serve.”

“I was proud of him,” said fellow classmate Jarrett Ross. “We need more of this in our department. We need people from all different walks of life, people who can relate to different things.”

Churgai says it has been his dream to be a police officer his whole life because “you get to people on the best and what could be one of the worst days of their lives.”

(Source: Philadelphia Inquirer)