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Four months after an officer pepper-sprayed an active-duty Black military serviceman in the face during a traffic stop, the Town of Windsor, Virginia released a press statement. It stated “Officer Gutierrez was terminated from his employment,” following his “failure to follow Windsor Police Department policy.”
Video of the traffic stop was released to the public last week. It immediately went viral over outrage that an in-uniform, Black Army Lieutenant was held at gunpoint by multiple officers for no apparent reason.
According to a federal lawsuit filed earlier this month against the two officers involved, Army Second Lieutenant Caron Nazario was driving a newly purchased Chevrolet Tahoe that had two temporary plates taped to the inside rear window and passenger window of the vehicle.
Army Lt. drove to well-lit gas station for safety
The officers initiated the traffic stop in a poorly lit and dangerous stretch of highway, according to Lt. Nazario, so he decided to drive to a well-lit BP gas station for the safety of everyone involved. The officers approached Lt. Nazario’s vehicle with guns drawn. They screamed conflicting orders to keep his hands where they can see them and also to exit the vehicle. Lt. Nazario was wearing his seatbelt which would have required him to reach back in the vehicle in order to exit.
The lawsuit alleges that the officers acted “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.”
After threatening his life, telling Lt. Nazario that he was “fixing to ride the lightning son,” officer Gutierrez pepper sprayed him multiple times before Lt. Nazario exited his vehicle. He was then placed in handcuffs while he was treated by paramedics and later spoke to a supervisor.
City’s press release comes four months late
Lt. Nazario was released without charges and, according to the lawsuit, officers “threatened Lt. Nazario’s job and his commission in the United States Army if he spoke out knowing the harm criminal charges would cause him.”
At 11:50 Eastern Time Sunday night, the Town of Windsor, Virginia issued a press release. The release comes four month after the stop took place.
It’s unclear when Officer Gutierrez was fired from his position.
“The Town of Windsor prides itself in its small-town charm and the community-wide respect of its Police Department. 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 sentiments from the Town of Windsor ring hollow since the press release was issued four months after the incident and only after the video of the incident went viral.