RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A federal jury reached a verdict in a case against two Windsor police officers accused of conducting a violent traffic stop involving Virginia Army National Guard lieutenant, Caron Nazario in 2020.
The jury found Joe Gutierrez liable of assault — awarding Nazario $2,685 for the charge. In addition, Crocker’s illegal search of Nazario’s SUV resulted in $1,000 for punitive damages — bringing Nazario’s total to $3,685, a far cry from the $1 million he was seeking.
“We are pleased that the jury determined that there were certain things that they would not tolerate,” said Jonathan Arthur, Nazario’s attorney. “Obviously, we’re disappointed that they determined that there were some things that they would, but we’re once again very pleased that they put their foot down and said certain actions from law enforcement — they’re not going to tolerate in Virginia.”
The case began in August 2022 when Nazario filed a $1 million civil lawsuit against both Windsor police officers, claiming that he was assaulted and falsely imprisoned during the 2020 incident.
The results of the trial required two extensions — one for an extra half-hour and one for an entire holiday weekend — before the jury came to their final verdict on Tuesday, Jan. 17.
On Dec. 20, 2020, Crocker and Gutierrez conducted a traffic stop of Nazario for driving a vehicle with missing license plates. In bodycam footage of the stop, the officers can be seen pepper-spraying, striking and handcuffing Nazario as he fails to exit his vehicle after police commands. Nazario can also be heard saying he is afraid for his life.
Crocker and Gutierrez’s counsel argued that they had good reason to treat the incident like a felony traffic stop — and that they used the necessary force to get Nazario out of the car.
“Against our client, Officer Crocker, a thousand dollars in damages for the search which we admitted he didn’t follow the proper procedure, so we feel the verdict was fair,” said Rick Matthews, Crocker’s attorney. “It was courageous on the part of the jury given the political climate and we’re very pleased.”
Nazario’s counsel argued he was confused by the officers’ conflicting commands and he had good reason to believe that the traffic stop could’ve ended in a deadly outcome.
“I would like to thank everyone that has come near and far to support me, and I would like to say continue to keep the spotlight on matters like this and thank you for the support,” Nazario said after the trial.