The Virginia Attorney General said Monday that he was investigating whether there was an “illegal pattern or practice of conduct” in Windsor police after a U.S. Army uniformed medic was held at gunpoint and sprayed with pepper spray by his staff.
Two members of the police department stopped the movement of Caron Nazario, a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, in December, during which one of the police officers, Joe Gutierrez, threatened Lieutenant Nazario before spraying him with pepper spray and pressing him against him. the ground, according to footage from the body camera from the episode.
His office has been requesting records from the Windsor Police Department for another decade as part of its investigation into “whether there was a pattern of police misconduct or from these officers specifically or more broadly within the department,” Mr Herring said. .
“If so,” he said, “we still have work to do to make sure it never happens again.”
Mr Gutierrez was fired after the police department conducted an internal investigation into the episode and decided he had not followed the department’s policies, the city said in a statement on Sunday.
An investigation is underway by the Virginia State Police, Mr Herring said, adding that it was important to have an “independent, unrelated agency that would fully investigate and ensure accountability.”
The investigation by the Attorney General’s Office was aimed at determining whether “this was an isolated incident” or whether there had previously been complaints of “unconstitutional police or brutality” from employees or the department, said Mr Herring, a Democrat running for re-election this year.
The Attorney General requested staff records for the two officers involved in the traffic stop, as well as records of any complaints to the department over the past 10 years regarding the use of force, traffic jams or “treatment based on race, color and / or national origin”, said in a letter sent Monday to Rodney Police Chief Daniel Riddle.
A Chief Riddle spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The city said in an earlier statement that the episode had led to disciplinary action and “department-wide additional training requirements” and that Windsor would “continue to provide information related to the event in its commitment to openness.”
This month, Lieutenant Nazario filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for East Virginia, accusing officers of illegally searching his car, using excessive force and violating his rights under the First Amendment. The lawsuit seeks $ 1 million in damages.
In footage of the traffic stop, Lieutenant Nazario told officers: “I serve this country and that’s how they treat me? What’s happening?”
Mr Gutierrez shouts: “What is happening is that you are about to ride the lightning, son.
In the case, Lieutenant Nazario also accused police of threatening to destroy his military career, accusing him of multiple crimes if he complained about their behavior.
Mr Gutierrez told Lieutenant Nazario that the police chief had given him the right to release him, as long as the lieutenant did not “fight and argue”. Mr Gutierrez also threatened to write a subpoena if Lieutenant Nazario did not “cool down” to stop traffic and that the army would be warned if a subpoena was issued. Lieutenant Nazario said he would warn his superiors of what had happened.
Army Sergeant Michael Greenston tweeted Monday that he was proud of Lieutenant Nazario, who he said “presented himself and our army well through his calm, professional response to the situation.”
In an interview with CNN, Mr. Herring said that “Lieutenant Nazario is the one who is calm – the one who is responsible.”