Two Cops Held A Black Army Lieutenant At Gunpoint And Pepper-Sprayed Him

by Kristine Cannon
black army lieutenant held at gunpoint
Windsor Police Department

Lieutenant Caron Nazario is now suing the two Virginia cops

Caron Nazario, a lieutenant in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, is suing two Virginia cops for holding him at gunpoint, dousing him with pepper spray, and violating his constitutional rights. Nazario, who is Black and Latino, was even dressed in full uniform during the encounter, which took place in December.

According to a lawsuit filed earlier this month, Nazario was driving to Petersburg from a drill weekend when police pulled him over for what they called a “felony traffic stop.” Once Nazario stopped at a well-lit gas station in Windsor, Virginia, the two police officers immediately began yelling orders at Nazario, The New York Times reports.

“Get out of the car!” one yells. In video footage captured of the incident, the cop can be seen pointing his gun at Nazario.

“I’m honestly afraid to get out of the car,” Lieutenant Nazario responds.

“Yeah,” says Joe Gutierrez, one of the officers. “You should be.”

At one point, according to video captured on his cellphone placed on the dashboard of his Chevy Tahoe and body-cam video, Nazario told the officers, “I’m serving this country, and this is how I’m treated?”

Later, Gutierrez would walk up to the Nazario, still seated in his car, and pepper-spray him. But it wouldn’t end there. Once Nazario stepped out of the SUV, Gutierrez struck him behind the knees and told him to “lay down or I’m going to tase you.” And as the officer put him in handcuffs, Nazario could reportedly be heard saying, “This is fucked up, this is fucked up.”

Then came more threats.

According to Vice, the cops allegedly told Nazario that if he were to complain, they would charge him with crimes such as obstruction, eluding, and assault on a law enforcement officer — crimes that could end Nazario’s military career.

Nazario has since lawyered-up.

According to the New York Times, the offers said they pulled over Nazario because his SUV did not have license plates. Nazario recently bought the Tahoe and, while waiting for the license plates, had temporary ones visibly taped inside the rear window. The report also states that Nazario “willfully and wantonly disregarded” police lights and sirens before pulling over, was “eluding police,” and had a dark window tint. So, officers treated the incident as a “felony traffic stop.”

On April 2, Nazario sued the two officers, Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker, for violating his constitutional rights, specifically under the Fourth Amendment. The lawsuit, which is seeking at least $1 million in damages, alleges excessive force that Nazario says was due to racial profiling, The Washington Post reports.

“He’s a sworn member of the United States Army,” said Jonathan Arthur, an attorney for Nazario. “He swears an oath to support to defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies foreign and domestic—and the way these officers behaved, this implicates the oath that he takes.”

The New York Times goes into much more detail of the encounter, which according to Nazario’s lawyer, has left Nazario “really shaken up.”

“He’s very, very worried about retaliation,” Arthur said.