Va. police officer fired after Black Army officer pepper-sprayed during stop

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ISLE OF WIGHT, Va. (WAVY) — One of two Virginia police officers accused of being involved in a traffic stop incident involving a Black U.S. Army officer in uniform has been fired.

A release from the town manager of Windsor stated that officer Joe Gutierrez was terminated following an internal investigation of the incident that occurred on Dec. 5.

The news comes just hours after Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam ordered the Virginia State Police to conduct an independent investigation into the incident, which began when Gutierrez and officer Daniel Crocker conducted a traffic stop of U.S. Army Second Lieutenant Caron Nazario.

The officers are accused of pointing their guns at Nazario, who is Black and Latino, and using a slang term to suggest he was facing execution.

Nazario was also pepper-sprayed and knocked to the ground by the officers, according to a lawsuit he filed earlier this month against them.

In the release, officials say “the pursuit and ultimate stop which resulted in the use of pepper spray against Lt. Caron Nazario by Officer Gutierrez” required an internal investigation to determine the appropriateness of Gutierrez’s action.

“At the conclusion of this investigation, it was determined that Windsor Police Department policy was not followed,” officials said.

Windsor officials said they joined local officials in requesting the investigation by the Virginia State Police and called for a “full and complete review of the officers’ actions.”

The investigation resulted in disciplinary action and additional department-wide training, which began in January and is still ongoing, according to the release.

“Rather than deflect criticism, we have addressed these matters with our personnel administratively, we are reaching out to community stakeholders to engage in dialogue, and commit ourselves to additional discussions in the future,” officials said.

In a statement released Sunday afternoon, Northam described the incident as “disturbing” and said that it angered him.

“Our Commonwealth has done important work on police reform, but we must keep working to ensure that Virginians are safe during interactions with police, the enforcement of laws is fair and equitable, and people are held accountable,” he said.

Northam ended his statement with an invitation for Nazario to meet and talk with the governor regarding the incident.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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