Virginia AG launches civil rights investigation into Windsor Police Division

April 13 (UPI) – Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said he opened a civil rights investigation into the small Windsor Police Department after a Black Army official filed a lawsuit alleging two of his officers of excessive violence during a traffic obstruction in December.

Herring told CNN during an interview Monday night that his civil rights office would be investigating whether there was “a pattern of misconduct in these officials or broadly in the whole department.”

Earlier this month, Lt. Caron Nazario, a Black and Hispanic Army medic, filed a lawsuit accusing Windsor police officers Joe Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker of threatening his life, spraying him with pepper spray and pointing their firearms at him, alleging his new SUVs were missing license plates.

Herring described the officers’ behavior as “appalling”, “dangerous” and “unacceptable”.

“People of color continue to experience brutality and are sprayed with pepper and even killed by law enforcement agencies and this has to stop,” he said.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam instructed Virginia State Police on Sunday to investigate the traffic obstruction. However, Herring said it was important to have an independent and unaffiliated agency to also conduct an investigation to ensure public accountability and trust.

Hering’s office sent a letter to law enforcement officials asking for personal files for Gutierrez and Crocker and any use of violent complaints related to traffic stops or discriminatory treatment based on race, color or nationality over the past decade.

The investigations began when Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax has called for a full federal investigation.

“Nobody in Virginia or this nation should be treated like this – let alone a member of our armed forces serving our country,” he said in a statement. “The fear expressed by Lt. Navarro is a fear that exists in all black and brown communities and is based on a long history of racism and brutality.”

The Windsor Police Department, located about 30 miles west of Norfolk, announced Sunday that Gutierrez had been released.

The department also released the traffic stops’ body camera footage on Monday, showing officers pulling their guns on the SUV as it drives by.

According to the footage and the lawsuit demanding $ 1 million in damages, a uniformed Nazario repeatedly asked officers, “What’s wrong?” when the officers yell at him to get out of his vehicle.

Gutierrez tells Nazario that he “wants to ride the lightning, my son,” an indication that he will be executed from an electric chair.

Gutierrez then sprays Nazario pepper spray when he continues to ask why he was run over.

Before Nazario is released without charge, he is interrogated by police officers in what the lawsuit describes as “a barely disguised attempt to get Lt. Nazario to agree to her attempt to recast events to cover up her guilt” .

Army Sergeant Major Michael Grinston said he saw the footage and that Nazario “portrayed himself and our Army well in his calm professional response to the situation.”

He noted that, while unable to comment on ongoing legal disputes, he can confirm that Nazario has support from the leadership.

“I’m very proud of him,” he said.

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