WINDSOR, Va. (WAVY) — The mayor of the embattled Town of Windsor agreed to sit on his front doorstep and talk with 10 On Your Side for 20 minutes Thursday about the controversy that has engulfed his hometown.
“It hurts. I grew up here,” Mayor Glyn Willis said, wiping away tears from his cheek. “It has created a scar on Windsor.”
He wants the public to know the Town of Windsor, with a population of about 2,600, has a friendly small-town atmosphere.
Sadly, he says, the viral video of two officers stopping Army 2nd Lt. Caron Nazario has put a severe negative mark on the town. The repeated pepper-spraying during a traffic stop in December has led to three investigations, including one by the FBI.
“My first impression was there is something wrong here. I need to understand what is going on, and I have worked since then to understand what was going on,” he said.
What happened after that traffic stop video went viral this month basically shut down the Town of Windsor.
“We are trying to carry on the town business, and we are in this situation. They may say ‘You brought it on yourselves,’ and we are struggling to carry on serving the citizens we know and love and are entrusted to serve,” he said.
Windsor was simply not prepared to deal with what has turned into a national public relations disaster.
“I got phone calls here and they are not pleasant. I’ve got  to 800 emails that aren’t pleasant. I feel for our employees, as they are trying to carry on the town’s work,” he said.
We asked him about the body camera and cell phone video of the police stop. Willis says he did not know anything about the stop until he saw the video on the news last week.
“My first impression was there is something wrong here,” he said.
Mayor Willis says there were issues with the traffic stop: what was said, and what was done.
Officer Joe Gutierrez told Nazario he was “fixing to ride the lightning.”
When Nazario told the officers “I’m afraid to get out of the car,” Gutierrez responded, “You should be.”
Saying that may have served as an incentive for Nazario not to exit the car. Nazario did not comply with officers’ demands for him to get out of the vehicle until after he had been pepper-sprayed.
Willis summed up the issues with the now-fired officer’s behavior: “Yes, those are things that we have commented on, and there are problems.”
Willis believes police were correct to pull over Nazario’s car and understands the difficulty in seeing the temporary license plate in the back window with tinted glass.
“How does that mile and a half, routine stop of not having plates displayed turn into what we are seeing there? How did that happen?” he said.
The mayor and Town Council support the police department, including Chief Rodney Riddle and Officer Daniel Crocker.
Riddle said he thinks Crocker, who had been on the force less than a year, showed signs of trying to de-escalate the traffic stop.
“As the chief has shared with us, there are a number of factors, he was a probationary officer [due to time on force], and that incident was a contributor, but there were other things that chief has been monitoring and working on,” Willis said.
Willis would not comment on whether the termination should have been done immediately in December, or January after the internal investigation concluded, instead of four months later — this past Sunday — and only after the body cam video went viral.
We asked whether Nazario is due an apology.
“I don’t know, to be quite sincere, about that. I don’t know enough to know,” Willis said.
Town Manager William Saunders and Chief Riddle did not issue an apology to Nazario when given the opportunity to do so Wednesday.
Nazario has filed a $1 million civil suit against both officers. It does not include the Town of Windsor. That could be due to Virginia local governments enjoy levels of protection against such suits.
During our interview with the mayor, he spoke with long pauses as he caught himself emotionally. He loves the town he grew up in and is troubled by the current state of affairs.
“People are saying Windsor is the worst place on earth.”
The mayor says he knows Windsor is a great place. A friendly small town. Great schools, he said.
“It has created a scar on Windsor… We want people to ride through and say this is such a beautiful place you have here,” Willis said.
Willis says the positive path forward will be built on this truth…wherever the road leads Windsor needs to do the right thing.
“Let’s get the information and do the right thing.”