A Black soldier in uniform who was pepper-sprayed in his car by Virginia police officers during a traffic stop has been awarded less than $4,000 in a million-dollar lawsuit against the two officers.
The jury awarded 2nd Lt. Caron Nazario a total of $3,685 in the lawsuit against Windsor, Virginia, police officers Joe Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker.
The officers faced four counts: assault, battery, false imprisonment and illegal search.
Gutierrez was ordered to pay $2,685 in damages, no malice, under liability for assault. He was cleared of all other charges.
Pull Quote: “It is open season on citizens in Virginia and across the county. Citizens will not rest assured that scenes like this are not repeated with impunity.”
– Nazario’s lawyer, Tom Roberts
Crocker was liable for an illegal search, no malice. He was ordered to pay $1,000 in damages. He was cleared of all other charges.
Nazario’s lawyer, Tom Roberts, said it was a “sad day” and that the verdicts fail to send the message to other police officers that “this conduct is unacceptable.”
“It is open season on citizens in Virginia and across the county,” Roberts said in a statement. “Citizens will not rest assured that scenes like this are not repeated with impunity.
The officers pulled over Nazario on the evening of December 5, 2020. Body camera footage showed Gutierrez pepper spray Nazario when he would not get out of the car.
One of the officers wrote in the police report that Nazario eluded police because he didn’t stop right away. Nazario stated that he wanted to pull over in a well-lit area.
“I’m honestly afraid to get out,” Nazario said during the traffic stop.
“Yeah, you should be,” Gutierrez replied.
Police said they pulled him over for not having a visible rear license plate, but in the footage, a temporary license plate can be seen in the rear window of Nazario’s then-new SUV. Nazario was not charged in the incident.
Gutierrez was fired by the Windsor Police Department in 2021 for not following department policy during the incident.