One of the officers involved in Windsor traffic stop has been terminated

Published 10:17 pm Sunday, April 11, 2021

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One of the officers involved in a December traffic stop in Windsor that garnered nationwide attention this week has been terminated, according to a press release from the town of Windsor.

Officer Joe Gutierrez has been terminated since the traffic stop, which happened on Dec. 5, 2020. The employment status of another officer involved, Daniel Crocker, remains unclear.

The circumstances came to the attention of the public last week when a lawsuit related to the traffic stop was reported in the media.

U.S. Army Lt. Caron Nazario was driving home that evening when he was stopped by the officers. Nazario activated his turn signal and drove below the speed limit until he found a well-lit area in which to stop, a BP gas station, stated the lawsuit, which was filed April 2 in federal court in Norfolk.

Nazario, who is of Latinx and African American descent, had temporary license plates displayed in his rear window, but the police claimed they didn’t see it and also were stopping him for the dark tinted windows and “eluding police.”

The two officers approached Nazario’s vehicle, guns drawn, and gave conflicting commands, at times telling him to keep his hands out of the window and other times telling him to get out of the vehicle, which would have required putting at least one arm back in to unbuckle his seatbelt.

One of the officers ultimately pepper-sprayed Nazario while he was still in the vehicle and wrestled him to the ground once he began to exit.

The lawsuit further states that the officers threatened Nazario and later made false statements to cover up what they had done.

The Windsor press release, emailed to media after 9 p.m. on Sunday, said the use of pepper spray triggered an internal investigation regarding the appropriateness of the action.

“The investigation of this event began immediately,” the press release states. “At the conclusion of this investigation, it was determined that Windsor Police Department policy was not followed. This resulted in disciplinary action, and department-wide requirements for additional training were implemented beginning in January and continue up to the present. Since that time, Officer Gutierrez was also terminated from his employment.”

The press release also states the town has called for an investigation by the Virginia State Police, something Gov. Ralph Northam also urged in a statement Sunday.

“We are saddened for events like this to cast our community in a negative light,” the press release stated. “Rather than deflect criticism, we have addressed these matters with our personnel administratively, we are reaching out to community stakeholders to engage in dialogue, and commit ourselves to additional discussions in the future.”