NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A current and former Windsor police officer have filed motions to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a U.S. Army lieutenant following a traffic stop incident which resulted in the soldier being pepper-sprayed.
Former Windsor officer Joe Gutierrez filed his motion on Friday, May 14, and Windsor officer Daniel Crocker filed a motion on Monday.
Gutierrez was fired back in April following the incident, which occurred in December 2020.
According to an initial lawsuit filed by Nazario in federal court, Nazario was in uniform when he was stopped on Dec. 5.
Nazario is asking for at least $1 million in damages and for the court to rule that the two officers violated his rights, including rights under the Fourth Amendment.
He was stopped by officers Gutierrez and Crocker. Crocker said he initiated the stop because he couldn’t see Nazario’s SUV’s license plate, which was displayed inside a tinted back window at the time of the stop.
Nazario did not comply with the officers’ orders to get out of the car, saying he was scared. Gutierrez could be heard in body camera footage saying Nazario was “fixin’ to ride the lightning,” an expression associated with execution.
The incident escalated to the point Gutierrez used OC spray on Nazario several times while he was still sitting in the vehicle. Nazario eventually got out of his SUV after being sprayed in the face at close range, then Gutierrez used knee strikes to force him to the ground. At that time, the officers handcuffed him.
The situation began to deescalate as officers spoke with Nazario about the traffic stop and allowed EMS to render aid.
Following further investigation into the incident, a release from the town manager of Windsor stated that Gutierrez was terminated in early April.
That same day, the NAACP asked Isle of Wight Commonwealth’s Attorney Georgette C. Phillips to recuse herself in the case.
“Since this incident, our local chapter has called for full accountability and transparency amongst
the Town of Windsor officials and the Windsor police department,” the NAACP said in a statement. “Instead we have seen the local government unapologetically stand by the actions of these officers, provide the citizens with incoherent answers and have used their powers to stifle the transparency process.”
The NAACP is also asking Gov. Ralph Northam to authorize Attorney General Mark Herring’s Office to review all evidence from the Virginia State Police investigation into the case, and make any and all legal decisions.