Footage of two cops detaining Virginia National Guard’s Lieutenant Caron Nazario at gunpoint and pepper-spraying him in the face during a violent traffic stop comes as police face multiple allegations of racism and misconduct.
The governor of Virginia has vowed a full investigation after footage emerged of two police officers detaining a Black army officer at gunpoint and pepper-spraying him in the face.
Virginia governor Ralph Northam said on Sunday in a statement he had instructed police to conduct an "independent investigation" into the incident, which he said was "disturbing and angered me."
Lieutenant Caron Nazario, who is Black and Latino, repeatedly asked what he had done wrong and said, "This is really messed up," as the officers holding guns demanded he get out of his car.
The police accused him of not cooperating.
Nazario, wearing his military uniform, was driving a newly bought SUV when the officers ordered him to pull over because he did not have permanent license plates, news reports said.
My statement on the encounter between Lieutenant Caron Nazario and two officers from the Windsor Police Department: pic.twitter.com/GcfL5YeIRm— Ralph Northam (@GovernorVA) April 11, 2021
The two sides in the case dispute what happened, but Windsor Police Officer Daniel Crocker wrote in a report that he believed Nazario was “eluding police” and he considered it a “high-risk traffic stop."
Attorney Jonathan Arthur told The Associated Press that Nazario wasn’t trying to elude the officer, but was trying to stop in a well-lit area.
Crocker and the other officer accused of involvement still work for the department, the town manager told The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk.
Windsor is about 112 kilometres (70 miles) southeast of Richmond.
The Windsor police chief didn’t respond to AP's messages sent through the police department’s Facebook page over the weekend and the town's mayor didn’t respond to two emails seeking comment.
US police misconduct
Police in the United States have been hit with multiple allegations of racism and misconduct, including over the death of a Black man in Minneapolis last year in a case that attracted international outrage.
A police officer is currently on trial over George Floyd's death, facing charges of manslaughter and murder.
The Washington Post said that Nazario, a health administration officer with the Virginia National Guard, was driving home on December 5 when he was pulled over.
Footage from the officers' bodycams and Nazario's phone spread rapidly over the weekend after Nazario filed a lawsuit on April 2 seeking $1 million in damages.
He was released without charge after the incident.
The lawsuit reportedly claims police threatened to end his military career if he spoke out about the officers' conduct.
"We must keep working to ensure Virginians are safe during interactions with police, the enforcement of laws is fair and equitable, and people are held accountable," Northam said.