‘A train wreck’: Richmond law firm representing Army Lieutenant who was pepper sprayed, threatened and held at gunpoint

Virginia News

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Caron Nazario, the minority Army Lieutenant who is filing a lawsuit against two Windsor police officers, is being represented by attorneys in Richmond. Nazario’s legal team is speaking for him due to the ongoing litigation, however his lawyers are calling the officer’s actions egregious.

Jonathan Arthur, attorney at Thomas H. Roberts & Associates, tells 8News they’re confident their case will hold up in court and called the traffic stop a “train wreck.”

“What the body camera footage revealed was like a train wreck,” It was really bad and got progressively worse and worse.”

That body camera video was recently released to the public and has gone viral, showing what happened last year on the night of Dec. 5.

Arthur shares with 8News when he first met Nazario, roughly four months ago, he walked through the firm’s front door with only cell phone video he recorded from the incident. Arthur says Nazario was hesitant to come forward. Arthur added that the Army Lieutenant was scared to lose his job and was traumatized by the incident.

“Get out of the car now, get out of the car now,” that phrase was repeated by Officer Gutierrez and Officer Crocker at a BP gas station. Followed by, “Hands out of the window, show me your hands”.

Attorneys share that Nazario is 27-years-old, graduated from Virginia State University, and was proudly serving his country–on the brink of a promotion– when his life changed as sirens flashed in his rear-view mirror.

In the body camera footage, Nazario is in full uniform and asks multiple times, “What did I do wrong?” and “What’s going on?”

As he’s being forced out of his brand new vehicle, Nazario says, “Please relax, I’m actively serving this country and this is how you treat me.”

The VSU graduate’s legal team says they’ve watched the police video and their client’s cell phone video multiple times. They list in a federal complaint, that Nazario was threatened, pepper sprayed and assaulted on his way home from work. They say his rights were violated.

In the video, Officer Gutierrez aggressively stated to Nazario, “yea, you should be”, after the lieutenant said he was afraid to get out of his car.

“This is an All-American upstanding human being and member of his community,” Arthur told 8News. “He was really shaken up and still is shaken up.”

Lawyers filed the lawsuit in Norfolk, hoping both officers will be held accountable for their actions.
Tom Roberts, another attorney with the firm, says they will argue that Nazario complied from the very start. He goes on to say, when sirens were activated, he slowed down and drove to a well lit area and hands were always visible.

Roberts says the commands given by the officers were conflicting.

“Keep your hands out the window, so with that command he’s obeying,” said Roberts. “The next command, get out of the car. In order to get out of the car, you have to retract your hands from the window. When you reach for something you may end up dead in a situation like that.”

Attorney’s are pushing for a jury trial and are suing for one million dollars in damages, but more importantly to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

“It’s so close to home,” Associate Attorney Andrew Bodoh told 8News.”It shows the real issues we have in our community.”

Furthermore, Arthur tells 8News, officers threatened Nazario’s military career. In the video, as Nazario is handcuffed and in distress from the pepper spray, Officer Gutierrez is heard saying:

“Two ways we can handle this. We can either sit here with you until you get your eyes back and can see and you go on down the road. Go on to your deployment, go on serving my country, which I respect and I thank you for. Or we can push the issue and write you tickets for no license plate displayed and obstruction of justice. I don’t want to go that route because that makes the Army get involved and I know how they are. You’re obviously a second lieutenant and haven’t been in very long. There’s no need to get this on your record, however it’s entirely up to you. If you want to fight it and argue, no disrespect, you have that right as a citizen.”

Arthur says it’s not about money, but changing policies.

“We want to send a lesson to make it known that no one in Virginia will tolerate this behavior and if law enforcement can’t get their act together that we will make it so expensive for them to do business that they will have to change it,” Arthur said.

Officer Gutierrez has been terminated from the Windsor Police Department. The agency calling the incident “unfortunate.”

Governor Northam has ordered Virginia State Police to conduct an independent investigation of the incident.

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