Virginia Police Chief Rodney Riddle has said the police officers involved "don't owe an apology" to the Black army officer who was pulled over and pepper-sprayed, despite him calmly cooperating.
Here's the full story...
Now, this all started in December 2020 when 2nd Lt. Caron Nazario was driving just west of Norfolk, Virginia when a police car signaled its headlights for him to pull over.
However, the Army lieutenant says he was reluctant to immediately pull over due to the stretch of road being dark, meaning he didn't feel confident in stopping safely.
About a mile down the road, he eventually pulled over at a well-lit gas station, according to the federal lawsuit he filed this month.
Immediately, 2 officers, now identified as Joe Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker, approached Nazario, guns drawn and yelling at him to get out of the car.
In the footage, Nazario, dressed in uniform, could be heard repeatedly asking, "What's going on?"
To which Gutierrez, responded:
"What's going on is you're fixing to ride the lightning, son," a colloquial expression for execution by electric chair.
Despite his repeated questions, the officers didn't once tell Nazario why he was being pulled over.
FYI: It was because they couldn't see a license plate on his vehicle - the car was new; a temporary cardboard license plate had been taped to Nazario's rear window.
With his hands in the air, Nazario can be heard attempting to reason with the officers...
While they continue to yell at him to get out of his vehicle.
At one point, Nazario can be heard saying, "I'm honestly afraid to get out," to which Gutierrez aggressively replied, "Yeah, you should be."
But then, completely unprovoked, Gutierrez lunged forward and pepper-sprayed Nazario through the passenger window.YouTube
He repeated this act several times over the course of 1 minute.
It's an extremely difficult thing to watch...
And as Nazario somehow remains super calm throughout the ordeal, Gutierrez continues to aggressively yell in his face, threaten him, and pretty much treat him like a convicted criminal.
The officers then struck him, handcuffed him, and interrogated him.
Paramedics arrived soon after to treat Nazario's eyes for the pepper spray.
He was eventually released without charge, but not before the officers threatened his job and his commission in the United States Army.
"There's no need getting this on your record," Gutierrez is heard saying in the bodycam footage. "I don't want this on your record. However, it's entirely up to you. If you want to fight it and argue... If that's what you want, we'll charge you."
Well, Nazario chose not to be intimidated by their threats...
1 of 2 Virginia police who pepper-sprayed, pointed guns at and threatened a Black Army officer has been fired.— AJ+ (@ajplus) April 12, 2021
Police claim they stopped him over license plates.
The Army officer, in uniform, told police: "I'm honestly afraid to get out." Police said: "Yeah, you should be." pic.twitter.com/aGdQ52Xi2E
And he swiftly filed a lawsuit against Virginia Police Department.
"The officers decided to pull their weapons, illegally detain Lt. Nazario, threaten to murder him, illegally spray him with [pepper spray], and illegally searched his vehicle," the complaint says.
Virginia lawmakers quickly called for the police officers to be investigated...
While Virginia Attorney General, Mark Herring, called the incident unacceptable.
"The Windsor Police Department needs to be fully transparent about what happened during the stop and what was done in response to it," Herring said.
Thanks to the investigation, Officer Gutierrez was "terminated from his employment," the town of Windsor said in a news release earlier this week.
The decision was made following an internal investigation at the Windsor Police Department that led to "disciplinary action" as well as additional training that began in January.
But it seems as if some people aren't ready to issue a formal apology to Nazario...
And that includes the Virginia Police Chief, Rodney Riddle.
Quite predictably, people aren't impressed with Riddle's take on the situation...
Chief Rodney Riddle appeared at a press conference on April 14th to address the criticism around the video released of the officers pulling over Nazario...
And he confidently said he doesn't believe the officers involved need to apologize to the army officer.
Riddle told NBC 29:
"I can't speak for him, but I'm gonna own up to what we did. My guys missed opportunities to verbally de-escalate that thing and change that outcome."
When a reporter asked if Nazario should receive an official apology, he said, "I don't believe that."
#Windsor Police Chief Rodney Riddle answered questions about a December traffic stop that has gone viral. Here he's explaining his opinion about the incident. https://t.co/QeT8gwzze6 pic.twitter.com/r2BORIgehu— WTKR News 3 (@WTKR3) April 14, 2021
He then said it would have been easier if Nazario "complied a whole lot earlier" before adding that "Lieutenant Nazario took certain actions that created where we got to, and I think that you know... we'll let the courts work that part of it out. At the end of the day, I'm glad nobody got hurt. That situation ended in the best way that it could have."
You can watch the full incident unfold below.
Make sure to stay posted for further updates.