Virginia Attorney General opens Windsor Police Department investigation

The Virginia attorney general said Monday he was investigating a “pattern or practice of illegal conduct” at the Windsor Police Department after a black, uniformed US Army medic was detained at gunpoint. and pepper sprayed by his officers.

Two members of the Police Department detained Caron Nazario, a second-lieutenant in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, in December, during which one of the officers, Joe Gutiérrez, threatened Lieutenant Nazario before pepper-spraying and shoving him. to the ground, based on body camera footage from the episode.

Gutierrez’s actions were “appalling” and “dangerous,” said Mark Herring, the attorney general, in an interview on CNN Monday night.

His office has requested records from the Windsor Police Department for a decade as part of its investigation into “whether there could have been a pattern of police misconduct by these officers specifically or more broadly within the department,” Herring said. saying.

“If so,” he said, “then we have more work to do to make sure this never happens there again.”

Gutiérrez was fired after the Police Department conducted an internal investigation into the episode and determined that he had not followed department policies, the city said in a statement Sunday.

The Virginia State Police was conducting an investigation, Herring said, adding that it was also important to have an “independent and unaffiliated agency to fully investigate and make sure there is accountability.”

The attorney general’s investigation sought to determine whether “this is an isolated incident” or whether there have been previous allegations of “unconstitutional policing or brutality” by officers or the department, said Herring, a Democrat who is running for reelection this year. .

The Attorney General’s Office has requested the personnel records of the two agents involved in the traffic stop, as well as the records of complaints to the department during the last 10 years regarding the use of force, traffic arrests or the “race-based treatment”. , color and / or nationality, ”according to a letter sent Monday to Police Chief Rodney Daniel Riddle.

A representative for Chief Riddle did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The city said in its previous statement that the episode had resulted in disciplinary action and “additional training requirements across the department,” and that Windsor would “continue to provide information related to this event in its opening commitment.”

Lt. Nazario filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia this month accusing officers of illegally searching his car, using excessive force and violating his rights under the First Amendment. The lawsuit seeks $ 1 million in compensatory damages.

In the images from the traffic stop, Lieutenant Nazario tells officers: “Am I serving this country and is that how they treat me? What’s going on?”

Mr. Gutiérrez yells: “What is happening is that you are preparing to ride lightning, son.”

In the lawsuit, Lieutenant Nazario also accused the officers of threatening to destroy his military career by charging him with multiple crimes if he complained about his conduct.

Mr. Gutiérrez told Lieutenant Nazario that the police chief had given him the discretion to let him go as long as the lieutenant did not “fight and argue.” Mr. Gutiérrez also threatened to write a subpoena if Lieutenant Nazario did not “calm down” because of the traffic stop, and that the Army would be alerted if a subpoena was written. Lieutenant Nazario said he would be alerting his supervisors to what happened.

Army Sergeant Major Michael Grinston said in a cheep on Monday he was proud of Lt. Nazario, who said he had “represented himself and our Army well through his calm and professional response to the situation.”

In his interview with CNN, Mr. Herring said that “it was Lieutenant Nazario who was the quiet one, who was responsible.”

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