Virginia police officer accused of 'disturbing' and 'messed up' assault of black lieutenant fired

Officer Joe Gutierrez was terminated from his employment after an investigation determined he did not follow department policy.

Footage showing a police officer using a spray agent on Caron Nazario in December 2020, in Windsor

Footage showing a police officer using a spray agent on Caron Nazario in December 2020, in Windsor Source: Windsor Police

One of two police officers in the US state of Virginia accused of assaulting an army lieutenant by pointing their guns and pepper spraying him during a traffic stop has been fired, according to an official statement.

Officer Joe Gutierrez was terminated from his employment after an investigation determined he did not follow policies of the local police department, the town of Windsor, Virginia said in a statement on Sunday local time.

The statement did not detail any breaches or punishments for the other officer involved in the incident, Daniel Crocker.

During the incident, which was caught on camera, lieutenant Caron Nazario, who is black and Latino, repeatedly asked what he had done wrong and said, "this is really messed up," as the officers holding guns demanded he get out of his car.

The police accused him of not cooperating.

Mr Nazario, wearing his military uniform, was driving a newly-bought SUV when the officers ordered him to pull over because he did not have permanent license plates, news reports said.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said in a statement earlier on Sunday he had instructed police to conduct an "independent investigation" into the incident, which he said was "disturbing and angered me."


Police in the United States have been hit with multiple allegations of racism and misconduct, including over the death of a black man in Minneapolis last year in a case that attracted international outrage.

A police officer is currently on trial over George Floyd's death, facing charges of manslaughter and murder.

The Washington Post said that Mr Nazario, a health administration officer with the Virginia National Guard, was driving home on 5 December when he was pulled over.

Footage from the officers' bodycams and Mr Nazario's phone spread rapidly over the weekend after Mr Nazario filed a lawsuit on 2 April seeking $1 million USD in damages.

He was released without charge after the incident.

The lawsuit reportedly claims police threatened to end his military career if he spoke out about the officers' conduct.

"We must keep working to ensure Virginians are safe during interactions with police, the enforcement of laws is fair and equitable, and people are held accountable," Mr Northam said.

With Reuters.


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Published 12 April 2021 at 2:30pm, updated 12 April 2021 at 6:58pm
Source: AFP - SBS