One of officers shown during a violent traffic stop involving a Black army medic was fired on Sunday, a day after the Dec. 2020 incident went viral on social media.
The firing follows a directive by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam to open an investigation into the incident.
“The incident in Windsor is disturbing and angered me – and I am directing the Virginia State Police to conduct an independent investigation,” Northam said in a statement.
Northam went on to say he would reach out to meet Lieutenant Caron Nazario, the afro-Latino army medic who was pepper sprayed and forcefully taken to the ground after officers pointed their guns at him through his SUV window.
Journalist Soledad O’Brien pointed to the fact that direct action was only taken after the video made its rounds on social media.
Nazario filed a lawsuit against Windsor officers Joe Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker this month claiming that his constitutional rights were violated when he was stopped over a traffic violation. While both Gutierrez and Crocker were captured in separate body camera and cell phone video, Gutierrez, the more visibly aggressive officer during the encounter, was terminated by the Windsor Police Department.
Nazario was stopped by Officer Joe Crocker on Dec. 5, 2020 in Windsor, Virginia, where police claim he was driving with darkly tinted windows and no rear license plate. Nazario claimed he recently purchased the vehicle and was on his way home after completing a shift at the base.
In his report Crocker said Nazario attempted to elude police by not initially pulling over, to which Nazario counters, claiming he was looking for a safer area before he eventually stopped at a local gas station. Officer Gutierrez joined Crocker after driving by the scene while on duty.
Video footage shows the confrontation, which turned violent after Nazario calmly asked the officers why he was being pulled over. In the footage Gutierrez and Crocker are shown shouting conflicting directions at Nazario, until he’s eventually pepper sprayed while they aim their guns and forcefully remove him from the car.
In a statement obtained by the Associated Press on Sunday, the Windsor authorities announced they would open an internal investigation over the use of excessive force by Gutierrez, and confirmed his firing.
“The Town of Windsor prides itself in its small-town charm and the community-wide respect of its Police Department,” the statement 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.”