During a December 2020 traffic stop, Virginia police held U.S. army lieutenant Caron Nazario at gunpoint and pepper-sprayed him.
As a result, Nazario sued the two Windsor Police Department officers involved, Daniel Crocker, and former officer Joseph Gutierrez. His federal lawsuit sought $1 million in damages for assault and racial profiling. Nazario identifies as Black and Latino.
Less than two years after filing the suit in April 2021, Nazario secured $3,685 in damages on Tuesday (Jan.18), per NPR. A jury awarded the lieutenant $1,000 in punitive damages after finding that Crocker conducted an illegal search, per state law.
The jury also found that Daniel violated Caron’s right to refuse a search, as granted by the Fourth Amendment. However, the jury said Crocker’s actions were ‘without malice’ and denied Caron any damages for the violation.
They also awarded Nazario $2,685 in compensatory damages for Gutierrez’s assault on the lieutenant. Gutierrez sprayed Nazario at least three times with pepper spray, per the bodycam footage. Following an internal investigation, Gutierrez was fired in April 2021 for violating department policy.
However, the jury did not find Crocker and Gutierrez guilty of false imprisonment.
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Here’s What Army Lietunent Caron Nazario’s Lawsuit Against VA Police Said
Following the escalated stop, Gutierrez filed a report saying he and Crocker treated the traffic stop as “high risk” because Nazario allegedly wasn’t displaying a license plate, had “extremely dark” window tints, and didn’t immediately stop. Crocker had initiated the stop, with Gutierrez joining the traffic stop after driving by.
But, a lawyer for the army lieutenant argued that Nazario had temporary plates taped to the rear and side windows of his newly purchased Chevy Tahoe. Additionally, his lawyer said he took a minute to pull over because he was searching for a well-lit place for his and the officer’s safety. He eventually stopped in the parking lot of a BP gas station.
Nazario’s lawsuit stated that officers handcuffed and questioned him while waiting on paramedics, but he was not arrested. The suit also claimed the lieutenant developed anxiety, depression, and PTSD from the incident. Additionally, Nazario said he suffers from race-based trauma associated with violent police encounters, per a diagnosis from a psychologist.
In August 2022, Judge Roderick C. Young ruled that federal immunity laws protect both officers from claims of violating Nazario’s constitutional protections against excessive force and seizure. The judge gave Nazario permission to move forward with his claims of false imprisonment, assault, and battery–which yielded Wednesday’s 3K in damages.
It’s unclear if Caron has publicly responded to the ruling.