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.
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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.”
“The whole BLM movement” this whole racist podunk town. Oh Lieutenant, it’s your fault, these cops are scared too that’s why they pepper sprayed you for no reason. You’re black how do we know if you’re a good black or a bad one? pic.twitter.com/eZBZSj6aZM
— Naveed Jamali (@NaveedAJamali) April 10, 2021
Army LT Caron Nazario: “I’m honestly afraid to get out.”
Officer: “You should be.” pic.twitter.com/sIOBXc3yK8
— (@TheRileyWilson) April 10, 2021