Army 2nd Lt. Caron Nazario is suing Virginia police recently after he was held at gunpoint and pepper-sprayed by police during a traffic stop on Dec. 5, 2020. Nazario, who is Black and Latino, said he believes the officers displayed racist attitudes.
Nazario was dressed in uniform and driving his new car with his dog through eastern Virginia when he saw flashing police lights. He did not stop immediately but slowed down to pull over near a lit gas station. Two police officers pointed their guns at Nazario and commanded Nazario to get out of his car with his hands held in the air.
According to BBC News, body camera footage shows Nazario was holding both of his hands in the air outside the driver’s side window, and he was speaking to the officers
“‘I am honestly afraid to get out,’ he tells the two polices officers,” BBC News said. “‘Yeah you should be,’ an officer says.”
The police officers did not stop their violent claims and used a slang term to suggest Nazario was facing execution.
When Nazario asked the police officers why he should get out of the car, they explained Nazario failed to display his license plates, but the body cameras showed visible temporary plates.
Vox said Nazario stayed in the car because he had difficulty with his seatbelt due to a fear of moving his hands. Nazario said he was afraid of being killed because he thought the police officers would shoot if he moved to unbuckle his seatbelt.
“Instead, they attempted to forcibly open Nazario’s door, even as Nazario maintained he did not have to exit his vehicle for a traffic violation,” Vox said. “(The officer) then pepper-sprayed Nazario four times, yelling at him to get out of the car as Nazario asked for help unbuckling his seatbelt. Once he was able to unbuckle himself, the lieutenant was forcibly pushed onto the ground.”
The police officers handcuffed Nazario and started searching his car. According to BBC News, Nazario asked the police officers why they were using force against him, and an officer answered, “because you are not co-operating.”
Nazario was released later without charge, but Daniel Crocker, one of the two police officers, submitted a report after the incident claiming Nazario was eluding police and Crocker thought it a “high-risk traffic stop.”
The Chicago Tribune described what Jonathan Arthur, Nazario’s attorney, announced on Associated Press.
“Arthur said Nazario explained at the time that 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 Chicago Tribune said.
Nazario is suing the two Virginia police officers over the incident and is claiming the two officers violated his rights guaranteed under the First and Fourth Amendments.
One of the police officers was fired while the other is still employed.
CNN News recorded a request for information sent by Attorney General Mark Herring to the Windsor Police Department.
“People of color continue to experience brutality and being pepper sprayed – even killed – at the hands of law enforcement and it’s got to stop,” Herring said. “It was Lt. Nazario who was the calm one, who was the responsible one. Under no reasonable use of force policy would any of this conduct be permissible.”