Windsor council affirms support for officer who initiated controversial traffic stop, will start community workshops on policing

Virginia News

WINDSOR, Va. (WAVY) — The Windsor Town Council on Tuesday affirmed its support of the town’s police department, chief and one of the two officers involved in a traffic stop that made national headlines after a U.S. Army lieutenant was pepper sprayed.

Mayor Glyn Willis made the remarks in a statement late Tuesday night at the end of a council meeting. He also said the town, which has a population of about 2,600, would start weekly workshops to better engage the community on issues as it relates to policing.

“How can this happen in the town that I grew up in?” Willis said. “Windsor’s special and it’s special in a very good way. We as council members are here to serve the town and we are looking forward to doing that in a way that helps people see the good parts about the town compared to the bad parts and the bad view that people have now.”

This came after more than a dozen people spoke in front of the seven-member council Tuesday during the body’s first meeting since Windsor police body camera surfaced of a December 2020 traffic stop that has now gained national attention. In the incident, two officers drew their weapons and later pepper-sprayed Army 2nd Lt. Caron Nazario while he was in uniform.

Black Lives Matter 757 also held a small rally of about 20 people ahead of the meeting.

Many criticized the town’s handling of the whole situation, while several others cautioned them from taking any other action in haste.

Nazario recently filed a federal lawsuit claiming multiple rights were violated in the stop. Virginia State Police have launched an investigation, as has the Virginia attorney general.

While the town fired Officer Joe Gutierrez — who told Nazario “you’re fixing to ride the lightning” and that he “should be” afraid to get out of his SUV — the local NAACP chapter is also calling on Officer Daniel Crocker to be fired.

Crocker initiated the traffic stop after saying he didn’t see a visible rear license plate on Nazario’s SUV. A temporary tag displayed in a tinted rear window.

Crocker classified the stop as “high risk” after Nazario, who is Black and Latino, didn’t immediately pull over. Crocker said Nazario was “eluding police” and his SUV’s window tint prevented officers from seeing inside. Nazario told officers he wanted to pull over in a well-lit area.

Nazario did not immediately comply with orders to get out of his vehicle.

“While he was not the one who escalated the situation, its clear he doesn’t have what it takes to do the job,” said Valarie Butler, president of the Isle of Wight NAACP Chapter.

However, several others disagreed, such as the Southern & Central Isle of Wight Citizens Group. They asked for due process for Crocker.

Town Manager William Saunders told 10 On Your Side Crocker had only been out of the academy less than a year at the time of the traffic stop.

Saunders said Crocker remains on the force and was never placed on administrative leave for the encounter. A release from Saunders Sunday said “disciplinary action” was taken when department policy was violated, and additional department-wide training, which began in January, is still ongoing.

The mayor declined to answer questions or detail Town Council’s reasons for supporting Crocker.

Several longtime Windsor residents said on Tuesday that they still want answers as to why the town didn’t say anything when the incident occurred.

The interaction was brought to light by the Virginian-Pilot after a reporter found the lawsuit doing a beat check in the federal courthouse.

Gutierrez was fired on Sunday, three days after the story first broke.

“I’m hurt Windsor,” said Judith Dempsey, who has lived in the town for more than 20 years. “And then you guys wait until Sunday to fire that man? After what he did? Come on, Windsor.”

While Saunders admitted he knew of the incident in December 2020, he would not answer a reporter’s question as to when Town Council was informed of the incident. He also said he could not remember exactly when the internal review of the incident ended.

He didn’t say why Gutierrez wasn’t fired until Sunday, but said more information would be coming out “soon.”

There’s no set date for when the public community workshops will start.

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