Apr 11, 2021 - Politics & Policy

"I was horrified": Leaders respond to footage of Black and Latino Army officer threatened at traffic stop

An Army officer is suing two Virginia police officers after he said they drew their guns and pepper-sprayed him during a traffic stop in December.

Why it matters: Footage of the incident has drawn widespread criticism from leaders and groups in the state. Caron Nazario, who is Black and Latino, is heard saying “I’m honestly afraid to get out," to which a police officer responds “Yeah, you should be," in a video from a body-worn camera.

State of play: An incident report by police officer Joe Gutierrez said Nazario did not comply to commands, per WTKR, and police said Nazario was driving a car with tinted windows and no rear license plate. They said he had been "eluding police."

  • Nazario's lawyer says the Army officer was trying to stop at a well-lit area. He says his Fourth Amendment rights were violated and is suing Gutierrez and officer Daniel Crocker for $1 million in damages.
  • Police were not immediately available for comment.

What they're saying: U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) who represents Windsor, Va. where the incident occurred, said in a statement the stop highlights the need for police reform, and urged the Senate to approve the police reform bill that has passed in the House.

“I was horrified when I viewed the recently released video footage of the police treatment of Caron Nazario, a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. This should have been a routine traffic stop and the video speaks for itself. The release of this video also comes while the Hampton Roads community is still mourning the loss of Donovan Lynch who was killed by officers while their body worn cameras were not activated. Both of these instances should be investigated by federal authorities.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said his office is monitoring the situation, and the Isle of Wight NAACP said it is launching an investigation into the Windsor Police department with Herring's support.

  • "We are done dying," the branch wrote on Facebook. "We will not stand silently while another African American's civil rights are violated."
  • The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus in a statement called for the officers to be investigated, and said the state needs to "revolutionize police accountability"

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for Eastern Virginia in Norfolk, says the officers said they would file felony charges that would have impacted Nazario's career.

Go deeper