Virginia police officer Joe Gutierrez, who stopped a uniformed Black Army medic at gunpoint and throw the pepper spray in his eyes during a traffic stop, has been fired. He was terminated for his role in the Dec. 5 encounter involving Caron Nazario, a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, the town of Windsor, Va., said in a statement posted on its website.
During an internal investigation, the officials had determined that Mr. Gutierrez’s actions were not compatible with the department’s policies. But the details of when Mr. Gutierrez had been fired have not been revealed.
The camera footage of the incidents has drawn massive public attention and criticism of Mr. Gutierrez and another police officer who was involved in this encounter. They both sued on April 2 in U.S. District Court in Norfolk by Lieutenant Nazario, who has accused the officers of using excessive force and violating his constitutional rights.
The town of Windsor said in a statement that it joined calls from election officials, including Gov. Ralph Northam, in requesting an investigation by Virginia State Police into the December 2020 encounter. Windsor also released the statement:
“The town of Windsor prides itself on its small-town charm and the community-wide respect of its Police Department,” the town said. “Due to this, we are saddened for events like this to cast our community in a negative light. 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.”
The army man was driving to Petersburg, Va., from a drill weekend the night of Dec. 5, he saw a policeman lashing behind him. According to the lawsuit and video footage of the encounter, Lieutenant Nazario, who is Black and Latino, drove about a mile to a gas station because he had been nervous about stopping on a darkened road.
“Get out of the car,” one officer can be heard yelling as Lieutenant Nazario, remaining seated, repeatedly asks why he has been stopped and why the officers have drawn their guns. He positions his empty hands outside the window.
Lieutenant Nazario was wearing his Army uniform at the time.
“I’m serving this country and this is how I’m treated?” he says. “What’s going on?”
After he was pepper-sprayed, Lieutenant Nazario began crying and cursing. The police officers did not arrest Lieutenant Nazario and did not file charges.
In a report from that night, the officers said they had pulled over Lieutenant Nazario because his S.U.V. did not have license plates.