Virginia police officer fired after Army officer pepper-sprayed during traffic stop

Southeast

In this image made from Windsor, (Va.) Police video, A police officer uses a spray agent on Caron Nazario on Dec. 20, 2020, in Windsor, Va. Nazario, a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, is suing two Virginia police officers over a traffic stop during which he says the officers drew their guns and pointed them at him as he was dressed in uniform. Caron Nazario says his constitutional rights were violated by the traffic stop in the town of Windsor in December. (Windsor Police via AP)

ISLE OF WIGHT, Va. (WAVY) — One of the two Town of Windsor police officers involved in the traffic stop incident that has garnered national interest has been terminated from his job at the police department, according to Windsor officials.

A release from the town manager of Windsor stated that Officer Joe Gutierrez was terminated following an internal investigation of the incident that occurred on December 5.

In the release, officials say “the pursuit and ultimate stop which resulted in the use of pepper spray against Lt. Caron Nazario by Officer Gutierrez” required an internal investigation to determine the appropriateness of Gutierrez’s action.

Officials say the investigation into the incident “began immediately.”

The two sides in the case dispute what happened, but Officer Daniel Crocker wrote in a report that he believed Nazario was “eluding police” and he considered it a “high-risk traffic stop,” according to the lawsuit filed earlier this month against the two officers. Attorney Jonathan Arthur told The Associated Press that Nazario wasn’t trying to elude the officer, but was trying to stop in a well-lit area.

“At the conclusion of this investigation, it was determined that Windsor Police Department policy was not followed,” officials said.

The investigation resulted in disciplinary action and additional department-wide training which began in January and is still ongoing, according to the release.

“Since that time, Officer Gutierrez was also terminated from his employment,” officials said.

“The Town of Windsor has remained transparent about this event since the initial stop, and
has openly provided documents and related video to attorneys for Lt. Nazario.”

Officials say they will continue to provide information related to this event in its commitment to openness.

Officials ended the release by stating how saddened they were for the incident to cast the Windsor 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.”

On Saturday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam ordered the Virginia State Police to conduct an independent investigation regarding the traffic stop incident.

In a statement released Sunday afternoon, Gov. Northam described the incident as “disturbing” and that it angered him.

“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,” said Northam.

Gov. Northam ended his statement with an invitation for U.S. Army medic Lieutenant Caron Nazario to meet and talk with the governor regarding the incident.

This is a developing story. Refresh for updates.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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