Police officer fired after pepper-spraying black US army officer

Caron Nazario pepper-sprayed by two police officers; U.S., Virigina

One of two police officers accused of pepper-spraying and pointing their guns at a black US army officer during a traffic stop has since been fired, authorities in Virginia have said.

Two officers from the town of Windsor are accused of drawing their guns, pointing them at US Army second lieutenant Caron Nazario and using a slang term to suggest he was facing execution.

Town authorities said in a statement they were joining calls from election officials, including Governor Ralph Northam, to request an investigation by Virginia State Police into the December 2020 encounter.

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

The two sides in the case dispute what happened, but Mr Crocker wrote in a report that he believed Mr Nazario was “eluding police” and he considered it a “high-risk traffic stop”.

Attorney Jonathan Arthur told The Associated Press that Mr Nazario was not trying to elude the officer, but was trying to stop in a well-lit area.

In the statement on Sunday, Windsor officials said an internal investigation opened at the time into the use of force determined that department policy was not followed.

Officials said disciplinary action was taken and Mr Gutierrez has since been fired.

Officials added that department-wide requirements for additional training were also implemented beginning in January.

Mr Northam called the December incident in the town 70 miles south-east of Richmond “disturbing” in a tweet on Sunday, adding that he had directed state police to review what happened.

“Our Commonwealth has done important work on police reform, but 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,” the governor said in his statement.

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