Who Is Caron Nazario? Black Army Lieutenant Suing Virginia Police

Second Lt. Caron Nazario is suing two Virginia police officers after they pulled him over in his car and drew their guns before using pepper spray and knocking him onto the ground.

The lawsuit alleges that the officers—Daniel Crocker and Joe Gutierrez—racially profiled Nazario, threatened to kill him and that their actions might have negatively affected his military career. He claims his constitutional rights were violated.

The incident took place in December 2020 and was captured both in body camera footage and on Nazario's cellphone. Video of the event has become the subject of widespread criticism since it was shared online on Friday.

Nazario is a second lieutenant and a member of the U.S. Army Medical Corps, currently based in Virginia. He is also Black and Latino.

He was in uniform when he was pulled over and was on his way home from his duty station, according to the lawsuit.

"Graduated from Virginia State University. He was commissioned out of their ROTC program. He's an officer in the United States armed forces," Nazario's attorney Jonathan Arthur said of his client to The Associated Press (AP) on Friday.

"These guys decide to do this to him," Arthur said.

"He's a sworn member of the United States Army. He swears an oath to support to defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies foreign and domestic—and the way these officers behaved, this implicates the oath that he takes," Arthur added.

When asked about how Nazario is following the incident, Arthur said: "He's definitely not doing too well."

Crocker, an officer with Windsor Police, reported via radio that he was attempting to stop a vehicle with no rear license plate and that the driver was "eluding police," according to a report he filed after the incident.

Gutierrez, another Windsor police officer, was driving by the scene and heard Crocker's call, observed his colleague attempting to make the traffic stop and decided to join him.

Army Lt. Nazario was driving his new car home. He was pulled over, pepper sprayed, and arrested without explanation.

This is racism. It’s about the domination and humiliation of a Black man because he asked questions and “didn’t comply.” pic.twitter.com/RFE79TjWJ8

— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) April 10, 2021

However, Nazario had a temporary license plate taped to the inside of his rear window and it was reportedly visible by the time the officers reached the car. The vehicle was new to him and he hadn't yet been issued with permanent plates.

Nazario said he wasn't trying to elude police but instead was looking for a well-lit place to stop. He pulled his SUV into a gas station.

According to the lawsuit, Crocker and Gutierrez immediately drew their guns when they arrived at Nazario's vehicle and tried to pull him out of the car, before pepper-spraying him multiple times and shouting conflicting orders at him.

Gutierrez reportedly told Nazario he was "fixin' to ride the lightning"—a reference to execution by electric chair. The officers allegedly struck Nazario several times in the legs, knocking him to the ground and questioning him. Nazario was not charged.

The facts in the case are disputed and the officers say they used force because Nazario would not exit the vehicle. The lawsuit says the officers behaved in a "racially biased" manner.

Police Car With 911 on Its Side
A police car with 'Emergency Dial 911' on its side parked in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Police in Windsor, Virginia are facing a lawsuit after a traffic stop involving an army lieutenant. Robert Alexander/Getty Images