Policing expert weighs in on controversial Windsor traffic stop

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Posted at 10:51 PM, Aug 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-19 13:35:44-04

WINDSOR, Va. -- The small Virginia town of Windsor is a pretty quiet community — but a traffic stop that happened there nearly two years ago garnered national attention. The case is still playing out today.

The initial stop, according to police, was for a license plate display violation, but things escalated.

In a lawsuit, Army Lieutenant Caron Nazario said while he didn't stop immediately, he did slow down and activate his turn signal to signify compliance. Nazario said he was looking for a safe, well-lit place to pull over.

A BP gas station was around one mile away from where the stop originated is where he decided to pull off.

Nazario filed the suit against the two responding police officers who he alleged drew their guns, pointed them at him and used a slang term to suggest he was facing execution during the December 2020 traffic stop.

Miles Turner, a retired police officer of nearly 30 years, now runs a law enforcement consulting company. He's been following the case since 2020.

"Now, I don't think the police were without fault in this. But there were other places that man could have stopped before he did," Turner said.

While Nazario was never charged with eluding, one of the officers who pulled him over said in the incident report that he characterized Nazario's actions as eluding and considered the top to be high risk because of this.

"Whether they [the public] are aware of it or not, all it takes on the side of the road is probable cause," Turner said. "The ignorance of the law is not an excuse."

Last week, federal judge Roderick Young reaffirmed that officers had probable cause in this case.

He wrote, in part, the following:

In similar situations, courts have found that failing to immediately pull over can constitute eluding, even when the reason is well-intentioned, as the officer has no way of knowing the reason for the suspect's delay.

"Things like reducing speed, turning on your interior light, turning on your four-way flashers. But also be reasonable about it. I think most officers are gonna give you the benefit of the doubt for that. But they are not required to," Turner said.

Turner said that it's up to that particular officer's discretion and every situation is unique.

CBS 6 Legal Analyst Todd Stone said the bar is pretty low to assert probable cause, but very high to prove a claim beyond a reasonable doubt. He said that intention and state of mind will be analyzed in court.

"If a judge believes you weren't really trying to elude, that you didn't have the intent to elude, then I wouldn't expect judges in most circumstances to find someone guilty of eluding," Stone said.

In the summary opinion issued last week, the judge said the remaining allegations in Nazario's case should be heard by a jury.

In a separate case, a special prosecutor said the officer should not face any criminal charges at the state level. However, the case was referred to the U.S. Attorney's office for a federal civil rights investigation.



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