RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The law firm representing Virginia National Guard Lt. Caron Nazario, shown in a viral video having guns drawn on him and being pepper-sprayed by officers from the Windsor, Virginia, Police Department, released a statement on Monday thanking those who’ve shown support of a civil rights lawsuit filed against the two policemen in Norfolk federal court.
The suit seeks $1 million in damages from Joe Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker, alleging that the two officers violated Nazario’s First and Fourth Amendment rights.
“Lieutenant Nazario is gratified by the outpouring of support this weekend for the civil rights lawsuit he filed last week,” says a statement from Thomas H. Roberts & Associates, P.C. “He is encouraged that his story resonates with so many who are willing to speak out.”
In the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, attorney Jonathan M. Arthur, representing Nazario, stated the actions of Gutierrez and Crocker are “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 the 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.”
The incident took place on Dec. 5, 2020, when Nazario was pulled over by officers Gutierrez and Crocker who claim Nazario did not have a rear license plate showing on his Chevrolet Tahoe. The body cam footage shows that after pulling into the parking lot of a gas station off of Route U.S. 460 in Isle of Wight County, the officers pointed their guns at Nazario, ordered him out of his vehicle and threatened to shoot if he did not comply.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, Attorney General Mark Herring and U.S. Senator Tim Kaine have all released statements condemning the actions of the two officers and called for a criminal investigation into the incident.
The Town of Windsor announced Sunday night that Gutierrez had been terminated from the police force following an internal investigation.
While they are glad Gutierrez was ultimately let go because of his actions in the incident, Arthur stated they must take this further.
“We must consider steps to decertify officers that engage in this behavior, so that they cannot seek employment with other law enforcement agencies,” Arthur said. “Additionally, the law enforcement community has considered seriously the failure of officers like Daniel Crocker to promptly intervene to end an unjust police-civilian encounter as it unfolds. Too often, officers will support their colleagues, right or wrong, at the cost of innocent civilians.”
The Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Office also provided a statement on Monday:
The Virginia National Guard is very concerned about the safety, health and welfare of all our personnel, but we do not comment about ongoing litigation and will allow this matter to work through the legal system.
Lt. Nazario’s unit has been aware of the incident since it occurred in early December, and they have remained in close contact with him and made sure he had any support needed from the Virginia National Guard.
The Virginia National Guard has behavioral health specialists and chaplain support available to any service member impacted by this event, and unit leaders are available to have an open dialogue with their Soldiers if they have concerns.
Nazario is a 2nd Lieutenant serving as a 70B Army Health Services Administration Officer in the Virginia National Guard’s Norfolk-based 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
He was commissioned as an officer in December 2016 when he graduated from Virginia State University.
The Isle of Wight branch and the Virginia NAACP plans to hold a press conference at 6 p.m. Monday to address the incident. The press conference will be streamed live on WRIC.com.
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