An Army officer who was pepper sprayed during a 2020 arrest was awarded less than $4,000 after he sued the officers responsible.
Black and Latino Army officer, 2nd Lt. Caron Nazario was pulled over for a traffic stop in Windsor, Virginia in December of 2020 when police officers approached his vehicle with weapons drawn and demanded he get out of the car.
A video from the encounter showed how Nazario handled the tense encounter.
Nazario did not immediately follow the officers orders to leave his SUV and repeatedly asked, “What’s going on?”
The footage shows Nazario held his hands outside the driver’s side window, showing that he was unarmed as the officer’s approached the window. At one point, Nazario said, “I’m honestly afraid to get out” to which an officer, pointing a taser at Nazario, said, “Yeah, you should be.”
Moments later, that same officer pulled out a can of pepper spray and sprayed Nazario multiple times.
After being sprayed, Nazario asked the officers to take off his seat belt, while he continued to keep his hands up and visible. Nazario eventually took off his own seat belt, moving slowly and announcing his actions as he did. As the officers then forced Nazario to the ground, he continued to ask from them to explain why he had been pulled over.
Nazario filed a federal lawsuit against the two officers involved in the arrest, Joe Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker four months later, in April of 2021. After a trial, a jury returned a verdict that awarded Nazario a total of $3,685 for the actions of the two officers.
The jury agreed that Nazario deserved $1,000 for Crocker’s actions during the video. A federal judge ruled last year that Crocker was liable for illegally searching Nazario’s SUV during the arrest.
The jury also agreed that Nazario deserved $2,685 after they determined that Gutierrez had wrongly assaulted Nazario during the traffic stop.
During the court case, Nazario alleged Gutierrez and Crocker had threatened to kill him. Both officers testified during the case that they made no such threat and that Guttierez comment that Nazario was “fixing to ride the lightning” came at a time in the encounter when he was holstering his pistol and drawing his taser.
Gutierrez was fired in April of 2021, as Nazario initially filed his lawsuit. Crocker remains on the police force.