Lawyers for a Black Army officer, whose police could be heard threatening to stop traffic in Virginia, criticized “corner police work” in a statement Wednesday on the incident.
The statement comes after police in Windsor, Virginia, fired police officer Joe Gutierrez, who was initially punished after an internal review of the December incident, which ended in January.
Windsor Police Chief Rodney Riddle addressed the incident publicly for the first time on Wednesday, saying the decision to fire Gutierrez was made after the video of the traffic stop went viral this week.
“We got to the point on Sunday when I lost faith in his ability to continue to serve the community by the standards we expect him to be,”
Army lieutenant Caron Nazario’s lawyers called the chief’s department’s comments and policies “police work on foot” and “accusation of victims.”
“The statements of the Chief of Police in Windsor today demonstrate systemic police problems that generate violations of civil rights throughout the country,” the lawyers said in a statement.
The Windsor city manager said in a statement that an internal investigation had found that the police officers who pulled Nazario – Joe Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker – were not following the department’s policy.
In a federal civil lawsuit filed earlier this month, Nazario said he was driving a newly purchased Chevrolet Tahoe when he met police on U.S. Highway 460 in Windsor. He was in uniform at the stop.
Nazario, who is black and Latin American, admitted in his complaint that he did not stop immediately. Instead, he turned on his hazard warning lights and continued for another 100 seconds, driving below the speed limit so he could safely park in a well-lit gas station parking lot less than a mile down the road.
Gutierrez and Crocker then withdrew their weapons against Nazario, who was accused of driving without license plates, according to the trial and footage from the body camera.
Nazario insisted he follow the police commands to keep his hands out the window, but the police were thrilled when he asked what justified the escalating sweater.
“What’s going on? You decide to turn on the lights, son,” Gutierrez said, according to the video of the trial and the body camera.
“This is a colloquial term for execution, derived from a reference to glib for execution from an electric chair,” Nazario’s lawyer Jonathan Arthur wrote in the case.
Nazario told police he was “honestly afraid to get out” of his SUV, the video of the incident shows, before Gutierrez replied, “Yes, you have to be!”
The footage also shows Nazario sprayed with pepper several times, “causing him significant and immediate pain,” the case said.
Riddle, the police chief, told a news conference Wednesday that he was glad no one was hurt and that the situation ended in the best way he could.
“I wish he had done it much earlier,” Riddle said. “I will own what we did wrong. I can’t talk about it, but I will own what we did. My boys missed the opportunity to de-escalate this thing orally and change that result. “
Nazario’s lawyers dispute this.
“The boss says he’s glad no one was hurt,” Arthur said in a statement. “OC [pepper] spray hurts. Being threatened to “ride the lightning” hurts. If you are told that you should be afraid to follow police commands, it hurts. “
Riddle chose not to fire Crocker, the second officer in the video and a newcomer to the department who was still in training at the time, and instead wanted to use the incident as an instructive moment.
“I’ve known Daniel since I was 14 years old. He has lived all his life in the city of Windsor. He wants to serve his community and there is almost no doubt in my mind with a little more training and experience, he will continue to serve this community well, “said Riddle.
During the stoppage, police said they warned Nazario not to complain about his treatment of him, threatening to accuse him, the lawsuit said. If the lieutenant “cools down and lets go,” then no charges will be filed, according to Arthur.
Ultimately, Nazario has not been charged or quoted with traffic violations, his lawyer said. A new car label was clearly visible in Nazario’s rear window, Arthur said.
The Virginia Bureau of Criminal Investigation has initiated a “thorough and objective criminal investigation into the traffic stop on December 5, 2020,” the statement said.
Riddle said the department is cooperating with the investigation. Asked if Nazario deserved an apology, he told reporters: “I don’t believe it.”
Employees cannot be found immediately for comment by publicly listed phone numbers. Windsor police did not respond to a request for comment.
David K. Lee and Tim Steloch contributed.