Update: Virginia Officer Who Pepper Sprayed & Pulled Gun On Black Army Lt. Fired
One of two police officers who pepper-sprayed and pulled a gun on a Black and Latino second lieutenant in the U.S. Army has been fired.
Windsor, Virginia officials confirmed that Officer Joe Gutierrez was terminated and faced “disciplinary action” for a December incident involving Lt. Caron Nazario that’s at the center of a lawsuit.
As previously reported Nazario is seeking $1 million in compensatory damages because Officers Joe Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker pulled guns on him, pepper-sprayed him, and issued threats during a traffic stop thus violating his rights guaranteed under the First and Fourth Amendments.
After bodycam footage of the traffic stop circulated, Windsor, Virginia officials released a statement noting that an internal investigation into the use of force determined that department policy wasn’t followed and Officer Gutierrez was let go from his position.
“The Town of Windsor prides itself in its small-town charm and the community-wide respect of its Police Department,” the statement 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.
“The pursuit and ultimate stop resulted in the use of pepper spray against Lt. Nazario by Officer Gutierrez. As a result of this use of force, Department policy requires an internal investigation to determine the appropriateness of such actions,” the statement continued. “The investigation of this event began immediately. At the conclusion of this investigation, it was determined that Windsor Police Department policy was not followed.”
In addition to the town of Windsor speaking on the incident, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is calling for an internal investigation. Noting that he was “disturbed and angered” by the bodycam footage, the governor stressed that a “larger dialogue” concerning police reform must continue. He also invited Lt. Nazario to meet with him.
“Our Commonwealth has done important work on police reform, but we must keep working to ensure Virginians are safe during interactions with police, the enforcement of laws is fair and equitable, and people are held accountable,” said Northam said in a statement.
“We must all continue the larger dialogue about [policing] reform in our country,” he added.
So far no word yet on if the lieutenant will meet with the Governor.