Army lieutenant pepper-sprayed by police gets measly payout after suing for millions
Windsor, Virginia - A Black Latino army lieutenant was given a small settlement in the $1 million lawsuit he filed after local police officers repeatedly pepper sprayed him during a brutal traffic stop.
On Tuesday, the jury presiding over the lawsuit reportedly awarded the victim, Caron Nazario, a total of $3,685 for the incident that occurred on December 5, 2020.
Nazario filed the suit in April 2021, alleging that the two officers violated his first and fourth amendment rights.
Former officers Joe Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker each faced charges for assault, battery, false imprisonment, and illegal search.
In the end, the jury largely sided with the officers, ordering Gutierrez to pay $2,685 in damages for assault, and Crocker was ordered to pay $1,000 for the illegal search charge.
All other charges were dropped for both officers.
Nazario's attorney Tom Roberts said the jury's decision fails to send a proper message to law enforcement that "this conduct is unacceptable."
"It is open season on citizens in Virginia and across the county," he reportedly said in a statement. "Citizens will not be rest assured that scenes like this are not repeated with impunity."
Officer Crocker's defense attorney Richard Matthews described the verdict as "fair," adding that it "was courageous on the part of the jury given the political climate, and we're very pleased."
What we know about Caron Nazario's brutal traffic stop and arrest
The incident began after officer Crocker called in a "high-risk traffic stop" regarding a black SUV that he believed had no rear license plate, although video evidence shows otherwise.
Body cam footage and video from Nazario's dashcam showed the lieutenant being pulled over at a local gas station.
Officers, who claimed he was "eluding police" by not stopping immediately, pulled in behind him and drew their weapons and pointed them at Nazario as they exit their vehicles.
Nazario repeatedly asked what is going on, but the officers refused to explain and instead ordered him to exit the vehicle. He refused to do so, and repeatedly told the officers that he feared for his safety.
Officer Gutierrez noticeably grew agitated, and began to pepper spray Nazario, and threatened to use a taser next if he continued to not comply.
As he eventually exited the vehicle, Nazario is cuffed while Gutierrez is heard chastising him, at one point saying he was "fixin' to ride the lightning," a reference to the 1999 film The Green Mile which is about a black man on death row.
Officer Gutierrez was fired shortly after lieutenant Nazario filed his lawsuit, but officer Daniel Crocker still remains on the force.
Caron Nazario and his legal team started a GoFundMe to raise money to assist with legal fees. In an update on Tuesday, the team revealed that they have begun "drafting a motion for a new trial."
Cover photo: Collage: Screenshot / YouTube / PoliceActivity