Black Army Lieutenant Who Filed $1M Police Brutality Lawsuit Awarded Just $3,685

Image via Windsor Police
Image via Windsor Police


A jury awarded $3,685 to a Black US Army lieutenant who filed a $1 million police brutality lawsuit against two Virginia police officers who pepper-sprayed and struck him during a traffic stop in 2020.

As previously reported, the incident occurred while 2nd Lt. Caron Nazario was driving home from work in his new Chevy Tahoe. Officers Joe Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker, according to Nazario, pointed their guns at him before pepper spraying and striking him after he was pulled over.

According to ABC News, Nazario filed a lawsuit against the officers, alleging assault, battery, false imprisonment, and illegal search. However, after being found liable for assault, the jury ordered Gutierrez to pay $2,685 in damages. The other charges were dropped against him. Crocker, on the other hand, was found liable for illegally searching Nazario’s vehicle and was ordered to pay $1,000 in damages. He was also found not guilty of the other charges.

Responding to the verdicts, Tom Roberts, who is Nazario’s lawyer, said it was a “sad day”, adding that the decision by the court does not give notification to other police officers that “this conduct is unacceptable.”

“It is open season on citizens in Virginia and across the county,” a statement from Roberts said. “Citizens will not rest assured that scenes like this are not repeated with impunity.”

According to the lawsuit, the December 2020 incident occurred after the Black United States Army lieutenant was flagged down for allegedly driving with a dark window tint and no rear license plate, as Vice reported. According to the lawsuit, Nazario was using temporary tags because he had only recently purchased the SUV and had yet to obtain a permanent one. Nazario also displayed the temporary plate inside the SUV’s rear windscreen. The traffic stop was also captured on police body camera footage, which allegedly showed the tags.

In the footage, Nazario could be heard asking the officers what the issue was on several occasions when he was ordered to step out of the vehicle. And despite informing them he was scared of exiting the car, one of the officers could be heard telling him, “Yeah, you should be.”

After being flagged to stop, Nazario decided to drive a little further and park at a well-lit nearby BP gas station. According to the lawsuit, this took about a minute and 40 seconds after Crocker ordered him to stop. Because the plaintiff did not immediately pull over, the officers claimed in a report that he was “eluding police” and thus treated the incident as a “felony traffic stop,” Vice reported. According to the lawsuit, one of the officers admitted that he knew why Nazario decided to drive to the gas station because it was a tactic that people of color frequently used during traffic stops.

When Nazario parked at the gas station, officers ordered him to put his hands up and step out of the vehicle, among other instructions. Nazario was also heard asking the officers what was going on during the confrontation. According to the lawsuit, the officers were “unwilling or unable to articulate why they had initiated the traffic stop.” When Nazario refused to exit the vehicle when told to, Gutierrez told the army officer he was “fixin’ to ride the lightning.”

“This is a colloquial expression for an execution, originating from glib reference to execution by the electric chair,” the lawsuit reportedly stated. Things quickly escalated and besides allegedly threatening Nazario, the officers also pepper-sprayed him and struck him in his legs with their knees after he exited the vehicle. The incident left the army officer in tears and in need of medical attention. The lawsuit also stated that Nazario’s vehicle was searched “without permission or authority.” After Crocker found a firearm in the vehicle, he allegedly “radioed the serial number back to dispatch to see if the firearm was stolen.”

The officers allegedly gave Nazario an ultimatum during interrogation at the scene of the arrest, according to the lawsuit. The officers allegedly told him they would let him go free without charging him if he would “chill and let this go,” but that if he did not cooperate, he would face charges that could jeopardize his military career. He was eventually released with no charges filed against him.

Following the incident, the Windsor Police Department fired Gutierrez in 2021 after determining he violated department policy.


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