Black Army Lieutenant Sues Virginia Cops Who Pulled Guns on Him, Pepper-Sprayed and Struck Him in the Legs After Stop in New SUV

Illustration for article titled Black Army Lieutenant Sues Virginia Cops Who Pulled Guns on Him, Pepper-Sprayed and Struck Him in the Legs After Stop in New SUV
Screenshot: The Virginian-Pilot/ YouTube

At this point, I really only have one question for police officers across the nation: Why are you like this?

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A Black man who also happens to be an Army lieutenant has recently filed a lawsuit alleging racial profiling and excessive use of force against two Windsor, Virginia, police officers who pulled him over in December last year, apparently, because they couldn’t see the temporary license plate on the SUV that the man had just purchased. Of course, the man wouldn’t find out that was what he was being pulled over for until later—because, how could he know that when the gun-wielding and hostile AF officers ignored his repeated questions as to what the hell is going on?

From Vice:

Caron Nazario was driving his newly-purchased Chevy Tahoe home when two police officers pulled him over in Windsor, Virginia, whipped out their guns, and started barking orders.

With their weapons raised, the officers demanded that Nazario, a Black and Latino man, get out of the SUV. Nazario looked in the mirror and saw he was being held at gunpoint, then placed his cellphone on his dashboard to film the December 5 encounter. He repeatedly asked to know what was going on. At one point, he even admitted to being afraid to leave the vehicle.

“Yeah, you should be,” one of the officers responded.

Nazario, a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, was coming home from work and in full uniform at the time.

“I’m serving this country, and this is how I’m treated?” Nazario told the officers, according to his cellphone video.

By the end of the incident, the cops would threaten Nazario, pepper-spray him in the face, and knee-strike him in the legs, according to body camera footage, Nazario’s cellphone video, and legal filings. Later, when Nazario was in tears and on the ground of a gas station parking lot as officers put him in handcuffs, he repeated, “This is fucked up, this is fucked up.”

A few things:

First, it really doesn’t matter that Nazario is an Army lieutenant. What happened to him isn’t wrong because he’s got some “American hero” career that should mark him as an upstanding citizen. If this happened to a negro who works at Walmart it would still be just as wrong. The only reason it might be worth mentioning is to illustrate that, when it comes to police aggression, any Black person can get it, regardless of who they are.

Secondly, when Nazario is heard in the video telling an officer that he’s afraid to step out of his car and the cop responds, “Yeah, you should be,” that officer pretty much told us all we need to know about the attitudes of cops when they feel their authority is being challenged and their little blue egos get bruised.

Why shouldn’t Nazario have been afraid? He didn’t even know why he was being pulled over. He was actually calm as hell for a man with guns pointed at him by cops who are shouting at him and refusing to tell him why they’re stopping him and demanding that he get out of the vehicle. Cops pretty much live by the phrase “I was in fear for my life,” but they don’t seem to understand the easily understandable fear Black people have of them.

Lastly—and this brings us back to the question: Why are you like this?—when someone asks a police officer why he’s being asked to exit his vehicle or why he’s being stopped in the first place, why the hell can’t cops respond by...oh, I don’t know...answering the fucking question? Instead, the officers in this instance appear to have responded by typical aggression and equally typical police brutality.

According to Vice, the officers, Joe Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker, said Nazario—whose care they said had a dark tint which, apparently, made it so they couldn’t see his temporary plate in the back window—was “eluding police,” because he didn’t immediately stop for them but, instead, kept driving slowly until he reached a well-lit BP gas station. According to the lawsuit it took about 1 minute and 40 seconds for Nazario to stop and one of the officers eventually admitted he knew why Nazario had pulled into the BP and that it happened all the time.

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The suit also alleges that the officers told Nazario that if he would just “chill and let this go,” they would let him go with no charges. Otherwise, they would arrest and charge him and it could hurt his military career.

In the end, Nazario was released without charges.

“I made the decision to release him without charges,” Gutierrez said in an incident report cited in the lawsuit. “The reason for this decision is simple; the military is the only place left where double jeopardy applies. Meaning that regardless of what happened in civilian court the military could still take punitive actions against him.”

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Besides the fact that Gutierrez appears to be completely delusional about who was in the wrong here, it’s interesting that the only reason a Black man was treated with even an ounce of humanity by police is that he was a Black man in a military uniform.

Why are they like this?

Zack Linly is a poet, performer, freelance writer, blogger and grown man lover of cartoons

DISCUSSION

muqaddimah
Muqaddimah (call me Muck)

At 3:10, when Nazario again says “what’s going on?”, did that cop actually say “what’s going on is you’re fixin’ to ride the lightning, son”?? Did that fucker actually say that? Am I hallucinating?