Virginia’s attorney general, at least one congressman and the local NAACP are expressing outrage at the actions of Windsor police officers who pointed weapons, peppered-sprayed and threatened a Black and Latino military officer during a December traffic stop caught on video.
Army Lt. Caron Nazario filed suit against the officers last month, and the video from the officers’ body cameras and Nazario’s cellphone have gone viral in recent days.
The officers said in the police report that they stopped Nazario’s Chevrolet Tahoe because it didn’t have a rear license plate, although the police report acknowledges the officers later noticed a temporary plate displayed in the back window.
Video shows the officers ordering Nazario to exit his vehicle outside a local gas station as he holds his hands up through the driver’s side window. Nazario says he is afraid to get out of the SUV and is then blasted with pepper spray, removed from the vehicle and forced to the ground. Nazario was later released at the scene and was not charged.
“These cameras captured footage of behavior 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,” the suit says.
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The suit says the officers later threatened to destroy the lieutenant’s military career “with a series of baseless criminal charges” if he reported them for misconduct.
Nazario is seeking $1 million from officers Joe Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker, saying they violated his constitutional rights.
“Incidents like this are unacceptable,” state Attorney General Mark Herring said in a statement. “As our office continues to monitor the situation, the Windsor Police Department needs to be fully transparent about what happened during the stop and what was done in response to it.”
Windsor has a population of about 2,600 people and, according to its website, a six-member police force. The police were unavailable for comment Sunday, and the mayor and members of the Town Council did not respond to a request for comment from USA TODAY.
Rep. Bobby Scott, a Democrat whose district includes Windsor, said he was “horrified” by the video. Scott noted that the release of the video comes while the area is still mourning the death of Donovan Lynch, who was killed by officers in nearby Virginia Beach last month while their body cameras were not activated.
The local NAACP said it is launching an investigation into the Windsor Police Department.
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The video is evidence “of what the NAACP has been saying all along,” the Isle of Wight NAACP said in a statement. “It appears from the video that our justice is still being abused by police officers and we are very concerned.”
The group said it has the support of the state NAACP and other officials.
“Please know this will not go unaddressed,” the group said. “We are done dying. We will not stand silently while another African American’s civil rights are violated.”