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NAACP to hold press conference on Windsor traffic stop incident

Posted at 1:15 PM, Apr 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-12 13:15:19-04

WINDSOR, Va. -- The Isle of Wight Chapter of the NAACP will hold a press conference on Monday with state and local leaders to discuss the traffic stop of U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Caron Nazario by two Windsor police officers that has sparked national outrage.

Nazario, a Black and Latino graduate of Virginia State University currently stationed at Fort Lee, is suing the two Windsor police officers over the traffic stop in December -- in which police pointed their guns at him, used pepper spray and used a slang term to suggest he was facing execution, the lawsuit stated.

“Since this incident there’s been a lack of transparency by the Town of Windsor and the police department to its citizens and community leaders,” the NAACP said in a release. “Our duty as a civil rights organization is to call out injustice and incidents such as this and to ensure that all citizens’ constitutional rights are safeguarded. Therefore, we will call on local, state and federal officials to properly investigate this matter to the fullest extent and propose a Plan of Action for the Town of Windsor and the Commonwealth of Virginia to immediately act on.”

Monday’s press conference will be at 6 p.m. in the Town of Windsor.

On Sunday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam ordered Virginia State Police to conduct an "independent investigation" into the incident.

Northam said what he saw in the video was "disturbing and angered" him. The governor also invited Nazario to meet with him.

The Dec. 5 incident began when Officer Daniel Crocker radioed he was attempting to stop a vehicle with no rear license plate and tinted windows. He said the driver was “eluding police” and he considered it a “high-risk traffic stop,” according to a report he submitted afterward and which was included in the court filing.

At the time, Nazario was in his uniform coming from his duty station and going home, attorney Jonathan Arthur said. He reportedly had a temporary tag displayed in a tinted rear window.

Nazario claimed he wasn't trying to elude the officer, but was trying to stop in a well-lit area “for officer safety and out of respect for the officers.” The lawsuit stated he traveled less than a mile after seeing the cruiser's lights turn on.

What happened next was captured on body camera footage and cellphone video. It has been described as "horrendous" and "disturbing."

The two officers immediately drew their guns and pointed them at Nazario after they got out of their patrol cars. The officers then attempted to pull Nazario out of the vehicle while he kept his hands in the air.

Officer Joe Gutierrez stepped back and pepper-sprayed Nazario multiple times as they yelled for him to get out of the car.

“I don't even want to reach for my seatbelt, can you please? ... My hands are out, can you please - look, this is really messed up,” Nazario stammered upon being pepper-sprayed, his eyes clenched shut.

The officers shouted conflicting orders at Nazario, telling him to put his hands out the window while also telling him to open the door and get out, the lawsuit said. At one point, Gutierrez told Nazario he was “fixin’ to ride the lightning,” a reference to the electric chair which was also a line from the movie “The Green Mile,” a film about a Black man facing execution.

Nazario told the officers, "I'm honestly afraid to get out.” One of the officers responded, “Yeah, you should be!”

Video later shows Nazario being pepper-sprayed again and knocked to the ground.

Windsor Town Manager William Saunders told CNN Officer Joe Gutierrez had been fired following an investigation launched because of use of force.