A Black, Latino Army officer is suing two Virginia policemen for drawing their guns and pepper-spraying him during a traffic stop in December in an incident that has drawn widespread criticism from leaders and groups in the state, Axios reported on Sunday.
A video of the traffic stop from a body-worn camera shows the Army officer, Caron Nazario saying “I’m honestly afraid to get out," to which a policeman responds “Yeah, you should be."
Police officer Joe Gutierrez said Nazario did not comply to multiple commands in his incident report, according to WTKR, and police added that Nazario, who was driving a car with tinted windows and no rear license plate, had been "eluding police."
But Nazario's lawyer said he was merely trying to stop at a well-lit area and that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated. He is suing Gutierrez and another police officer, Daniel Crocker, for $1 million in damages.
The lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court for Eastern Virginia in Norfolk, claimed that the police officer said they would file felony charges that would have impacted Nazario's career.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam tweeted his reaction to the video on Sunday, saying the incident is “disturbing and angered me.” He added that “I am directing the Virginia State Police to conduct an independent investigation” into the incident.
Democratic Rep. Bobby Scott, who represents Windsor, the area where the incident occurred, said in a statement that what happened to Nazario demonstrates the need for police reform and urged the Senate to approve the police reform bill that has already passed the House, saying “it would be a critical first step in reforming policing in America.”
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring wrote on Twitter that “Incidents like this are unacceptable. As our office continues to monitor the situation, the Windsor Police Department needs to be fully transparent about what happened during the stop and what was done in response to it.”
The Isle of Wight NAACP said it is launching probe into the Windsor Police department with Herring's backing, writing on Facebook that "We will not stand silently while another African American's civil rights are violated."
The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus released a statement emphasizing that “We must revolutionize police accountability here in Virginia. These officers must be investigated immediately & held accountable for their atrocious actions.”
The Virginia Chiefs of Police also released a statement, saying it “supports a thorough investigation” of the incident. “We do not condone excessive use of force in any way, and believe that appropriate action should be taken upon completion of an investigation.
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