WINDSOR, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia State Police are looking for witnesses in a December 2020 traffic stop in Windsor that resulted in two officers drawing their guns and pepper spraying a U.S. Army lieutenant.
Virginia State Police is conducting the independent investigation of the Dec. 5, 2020 traffic stop at the request of Gov. Ralph Northam and Windsor Police Chief Rodney Riddle.
The traffic stop happened around 6:35 p.m. Dec. 5 at a BP gas station at the intersection of E. Windsor Boulevard/Route 460, Church Street, Bank Street and Court Street in Windsor.
The man driving the SUV involved, 2nd Lt. Caron Nazario with the Army Medical Corps, was traveling west in a black Chevrolet Tahoe on Route 460 in the Town of Windsor.
Anyone with information and/or cell phone video from before, during or after the traffic stop is encouraged to contact the Virginia State Police by email at email@example.com.
The traffic stop has gained nationwide attention since Nazario filed a federal lawsuit earlier this month alleging his rights were violated that night.
One of the police officers involved, Joe Gutierrez, was fired on Sunday after a Windsor Police Department internal investigation and Riddle determined he had lost confidence in the officer’s ability to serve. The other officer remains on the force.
The police chief and Windsor town manager held a press conference Wednesday afternoon to answer questions about the incident. After the conference, the local NAACP branch in Isle of Wight demanded the chief’s resignation.
Officer Daniel Crocker — who is still employed with the department — said he couldn’t see a rear license plate on the SUV when he initiated the stop Dec. 5. Body camera video later showed a temporary vehicle tag displayed in the tinted rear window.
Nazario did not immediately pull over because he was seeking a well-lit area, he later said. He slowed down and traveled less than a mile after police turned on the blue lights. During that time, Gutierrez joined in on the stop in his own cruiser.
Because Crocker believed Nazario was eluding police, and the windows were tinted, Crocker and Gutierrez classified the stop as high-risk. They approached the SUV with the guns drawn and demanded Nazario get out of the vehicle.
Nazario didn’t immediately comply, saying he was scared. He did, however, show his hands to the officers out his window.
As the officers were ordering Nazario from the vehicle. Gutierrez said he was “fixing to ride the lightning.” Then, Gutierrez deployed his OC spray into the Army lieutenant’s face multiple times. After he was pepper-sprayed, Nazario got out of the vehicle.
Gutierrez used knee-strikes to get Nazario on the ground. He was then handcuffed. He was later let go after the effects of the OC spray wore off.
In a statement released Sunday afternoon, Gov. Northam described the incident as “disturbing” and said that it angered him.
Attorney General Mark Herring has agreed to look into the patterns and practices of Windsor police through an Office of Civil Rights investigation.
Virginia State Police are also in the process of investigating an officer-involved shooting at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront on March 26. That shooting left a 25-year-old Virginia Beach man dead.