Lawyers for a black military officer whom police can be heard threatening during a traffic stop in Virginia criticized what they called “the peak police.”
Windsor Police on Tuesday fired Constable Joe Gutierrez, who was initially penalized after an internal review of the incident in December concluded in January.
Police Chief Rodney Riddle addressed the incident publicly for the first time on Wednesday, saying Gutierrez was fired after video of the traffic stop went viral this week.
“We got to a point on Sunday where I lost confidence in her ability to continue serving the community to the standards we expect of her,” said Riddle.
Lawyers for Army officer 2nd Lt. Caron Nazario called Riddle’s comments and the department’s policies “high-tech policing” and “victim blame.”
“The Windsor Police Chief’s statements today demonstrate the systemic law enforcement problems that generate civil rights violations across the country,” the lawyers said in a statement Wednesday.
The Windsor city manager said in a statement that an internal investigation revealed that the agents who shot Nazario – Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker – did not follow the policy.
In a federal civil lawsuit filed this month, Nazario said he was driving a newly purchased Chevrolet Tahoe when he encountered police on U.S. Route 460 in Windsor. He was in uniform.
Nazario, who is black and Latino, admitted in his complaint that he did not stop immediately. Instead, he turned on his emergency lights and continued for 100 seconds, driving below the speed limit, so he could park safely in a well-lit gas station parking lot less than a mile away. the road.
It was at this point that Gutierrez and Crocker shot Nazario, who was accused of driving without license plates, according to the lawsuit and body camera video.
Nazario insisted he was following police orders to keep his hands outside the window, but officers became agitated when he asked what justified the sweater’s escalation.
“What’s going on? You’re turning up the lights, my son,” Gutierrez said, from the trial and the body camera video.
Nazario’s attorney, Jonathan Arthur, wrote in the lawsuit: “This is a colloquial expression for an execution, stemming from a casual reference to the execution by the electric chair.”
Nazario told police he was “honestly afraid to get out” of his SUV, a video showed. Gutierrez replied, “Yeah, you should be!”
The video also showed that Nazario had been sprayed with pepper several times, “causing him considerable and immediate pain”, according to the lawsuit.
Riddle, the police chief, told a press conference on Wednesday that he was happy that no one was injured and that the situation ended in the best possible way.
“I wish he had complied a lot sooner,” Riddle said. “I’ll admit what we did wrong. I can’t speak for him, but I’ll own what we did. My guys have missed opportunities to verbally defuse this thing and change that outcome.”
Nazario’s lawyers dispute this.
“The chief says he’s glad no one was hurt,” Arthur said in a statement. “OC [pepper] the spray hurts. Being threatened with “riding lightning” hurts. It hurts to be told that you should be afraid to follow police orders. “
Riddle said he chose not to fire the second officer, Crocker, a newcomer to the department who was still in training at the time, as he instead wanted to use the incident as a teachable moment. .
“I have known Daniel since he was 14. He has been a lifelong resident of the City of Windsor. He wants to serve his community, and there is no doubt in my mind with a little more training and education. experience, he will continue to serve this community well, ”said Riddle.
The lawsuit alleges that when the traffic was stopped, officers warned Nazario not to complain about the way they were treating him and threatened to indict him criminally. If Nazario “relaxed and let it go” then no charges would be laid, they said, according to the lawsuit.
Nazario has not been charged or cited for any traffic violation, his lawyer said. A new vehicle tag was clearly visible in the rear window of the SUV, he said.
The Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigations said in a statement that it was conducting a “thorough and objective criminal investigation into the traffic stop on December 5, 2020.” Riddle said the police department was cooperating.
Asked whether Nazario deserved an apology, Riddle told reporters: “I don’t believe him.”
Agents could not be reached immediately for comment through publicly posted phone numbers. Windsor Police did not respond to the request for comment.