Video: Cops Draw Guns on a Black Army Officer, Pepper Spray Him, Force Him to the Ground

Caron Nazario is suing in federal court.

Caron Nazario, a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, after he was pepper-sprayed by police during a traffic stop in Windsor, Virginia, on Dec. 20, 2020, from newly released body cam video. Windsor Police via AP

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.

Caron Nazario, a Black and Latino second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, was coming home from work when he was stopped by two police officers in Windsor, Virginia, pepper-sprayed, assaulted, and subjected to death threats, according to highly disturbing video footage that is now the subject of a federal lawsuit.

Nazario was driving along U.S. Route 460 on December 20, 2020, when he was stopped for allegedly not having a rear license plate on a newly purchased Chevy Tahoe. (The temporary plates were taped to the inside of a rear window on the passenger side.) When he pulled over at a nearby BP gas station, two police officers pointed their guns at Nazario, who was dressed in uniform, and told him to step out of the vehicle.

“What’s going on?” the 27-year-old Nazario asked the officers.

“What’s going on is your fixin’ to ride the lightning,” responded officer Joe Gutierrez, apparently making a reference to an execution by electric chair.

“I am honestly afraid to get out,” Nazario said.

“Yeah, you should be,” responded Gutierrez. “Get out!”

“I have not committed any crime,” said Nazario, who had his hands up but was afraid to exit the vehicle.

“You’re being stopped for a traffic violation and you’re not cooperating,” Gutierrez shouted. “At this point right now you’re under arrest, you’re being detained for obstructing justice.”

Gutierrez and a second officer, Daniel Crocker, then attempted to force Nazario out of the car. “Get your hands off me,” Nazario said. “I didn’t do anything.…This is not how you treat a veteran. I’m actively serving this country and this is how you’re going to treat me?”

At that point Gutierrez pepper-sprayed Nazario and violently wrestled him to the ground, placing him in handcuffs. “This is fucked up,” Nazario said. “This is fucked up.” 

A lawsuit filed on April 2 by Nazario in federal district court in Virginia alleges that the officers violated his First and Fourth Amendment rights.

“These cameras captured footage of behavior consistent with a disgusting nationwide trend of law enforcement officers, who, believing they can operate with complete impunity, engage in unprofessional, discourteous, racially-biased, dangerous, and sometimes deadly abuses of authority,” the lawsuit states.

The footage has sparked an outcry on social media, widely circulating at the same time that Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is on trial for murdering George Floyd.

The lawsuit can be found here:

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate