Judge Upholds Lawsuit Against VA Cops who Pepper Sprayed Black Army Lt.

In this image made from Windsor, Va., Police video, a police officer speaks with Caron Nazario during a traffic stop, Dec. 20, 2020, in Windsor, Va. A trial in federal court in Richmond is set to begin Monday, Jan.9, 2023, for the lawsuit filed by the U.S. Army lieutenant who was pepper sprayed, struck and handcuffed by police during a traffic stop but never arrested.
In this image made from Windsor, Va., Police video, a police officer speaks with Caron Nazario during a traffic stop, Dec. 20, 2020, in Windsor, Va. A trial in federal court in Richmond is set to begin Monday, Jan.9, 2023, for the lawsuit filed by the U.S. Army lieutenant who was pepper sprayed, struck and handcuffed by police during a traffic stop but never arrested.

A judge moved Lt. Caron Nazario’s million-dollar lawsuit forward against the two Virginia police officers who pepper-sprayed him during a traffic stop, per ABC News. Nazario says what the officers claimed to be a routine traffic stop resulted in an illegal car search and false imprisonment.

According to the video footage of the incident, Windsor officers Daniel Crocker and Joe Gutierrez approached Nazario at a gas station with their guns drawn. The officers demanded he step out of the vehicle but Nazario refused, asking why he was being stopped. “I’m honestly afraid to get out,” he said. “You should be,” Gutierrez responded then proceeded to pepper spray him through the open window.

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A federal judge found the officers had probable cause to stop Nazario for an improperly displayed license plate and charge him with obstruction of justice. However, another federal judge contended Nazario’s lawsuit against them could move forward, but with limitations.

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“The officers involved not only assaulted Mr. Nazario, but pointed their weapons directly at him and, at some point during the encounter, threatened to kill him,” the suit alleges. “Mr. Nazario recalls that he thought he was going to die that evening.”

U.S. District Judge Roderick C. Young also narrowed the scope of Nazario’s lawsuit. In August, Young ruled that federal immunity laws shield Crocker and Gutierrez from Nazario’s claims that they violated his constitutional protections against excessive force and unreasonable seizure, as well as Nazario’s right to free speech by threatening him with arrest if he complained about their behavior.

Virginia officers have a reputation of pulling people over for misdemeanors as a way to conduct a criminal investigation into something unrelated, according to WKTR. Take for example these two cops pulling over Nazario for a presumed misdemeanor (the tag display) but then conducting to search his vehicle.

According to Virginia’s updated traffic law from 2021, officers are no longer allowed to use a minor traffic offense as reason to pull someone over. If they do and find evidence of any other crime, that cannot be admissible in court. The officers did find something in Nazario’s car: a licensed firearm.

In whatever state you live in, remember your rights folks.

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