Officer Accused of Excessive Force Against Black Army Veteran Has Been Fired

AP Photo/John Minchillo

One of the police officers involved in an incident in which a black veteran was pepper-sprayed during a traffic stop has been fired. The story elicited controversy when bodycam footage was released that showed the encounter, which occurred in December of last year.

Fox News reported that “the town of Windsor said in a statement that it joined calls from election officials, including Gov. Ralph Northam, in requesting an investigation by Virginia State Police into the December 2020 encounter in which two Windsor officers were accused of drawing their guns, pointing them at U.S. Army second lieutenant Caron Nazario and using a slang term to suggest he was facing execution.”

Shortly after pulling Nazario over, one of the officers pepper-sprayed him while he was still in his vehicle with his hands up. After he exited his vehicle, he was knocked to the ground. The veteran has filed a lawsuit against the officers involved in the incident. The defendants are officer Daniel Crocker and former officer Joe Gutierrez, who was recently fired.

Both sides have conflicting accounts of what happened that night. Crocker wrote in a report that they believed Nazario was “eluding police” and they believed it was a “high-risk traffic stop.” The army veteran’s attorney told The Associated Press that Nazario was not attempted to flee, but was trying to pull over in a well-lit area. The incident occurred at a gas station parking lot.

According to Fox News: “In the statement Sunday, Windsor officials said an internal investigation opened at the time into the use of force determined that department policy wasn’t followed. Officials said disciplinary action was taken and Gutierrez has since been fired.”

The town’s statement addressed the matter.

“The Town of Windsor prides itself in its small-town charm and the community-wide respect of its Police Department,” it said. “Due to this, we are saddened for events like this to cast our community in a negative light. Rather than deflect criticism, we have addressed these matters with our personnel administratively, we are reaching out to community stakeholders to engage in dialogue, and commit ourselves to additional discussions in the future.”

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced on Sunday that he directed state police to conduct an independent investigation after the footage emerged. “Our Commonwealth has done important work on police reform, but we must keep working to ensure that Virginians are safe during interactions with police, the enforcement of laws is fair and equitable, and people are held accountable,” he said.

The footage shows that Nazario was slow in complying with the officers’ orders. However, Gutierrez, in particular, had already escalated the situation by approaching with his gun drawn while shouting commands. In other footage, one can see officer Crocker attempt to de-escalate throughout the incident, but his partner does not make this possible, which is likely why Crocker still has his job.

Even after Nazario shows his hands out of the window, Gutierrez responds by pepper-spraying him when it is clear he is not a threat. The veteran was clearly disoriented by the shouting and pointing of guns – the pepper spray only made the situation worse.

Still, while the hard left exploits this situation to propagate their “everyone is raaycisss” talking points, it makes sense for rational people to acknowledge that the police department did not automatically defend the officer in question for abusing his authority. So-called progressives would rather ignore that part – but it must be highlighted nonetheless. The only real way to crack down on police brutality is accountability.