One of the police officers accused of using excessive force in a Virginia traffic stop has been fired following an investigation, the town manager said late Sunday.
The Windsor, Virginia, officers pointed guns at, pepper sprayed, and pushed a Black US Army officer to the ground during the traffic stop last December. During the stop, the police officers believed the Army officer was missing a license plate on his new SUV.
Second Lt. Caron Nazario, who is Black and Latino, is suing over the incident, claiming the two officers violated his rights guaranteed under the First and Fourth Amendments.
One of the officers, Joe Gutierrez, has been fired, Town Manager William Saunders confirmed to CNN late Sunday evening. The other officer, Daniel Crocker, is still employed by the police department, Saunders said.
A statement from the town didn’t give the date of Gutierrez’s firing.
CNN has tried unsuccessfully to reach the officers for comment. It’s unclear if they have legal representation who would comment on their behalf. CNN has also reached out to Windsor Police Chief Rodney Riddle for comment.
The town launched an investigation because of the use of force in the incident.
“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,” a statement released by the town Sunday said.
Nazario’s suit, filed in United States District Court and first reported by the Virginian-Pilot, claims unlawful seizure, excessive force, illegal search, violating his First Amendment right to free speech, and common law assault, battery and false imprisonment.
Footage of the incident has drawn widespread condemnation, including from Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, who called it “disturbing.” He said he was “directing the Virginia State Police to conduct an independent investigation.”
“Our Commonwealth has done important work on police reform,” Northam said on Twitter Sunday, “but we must keep working to ensure that Virginians are safe during interactions with police, the enforcement of laws is fair and equitable and people are held accountable.”