RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia's governor is calling for an independent investigation into a traffic stop in which two police officers were captured on video pepper-spraying and pointing their guns at a Black Army officer before striking his knees.
Gov. Ralph Northam called the December 2020 encounter “disturbing” in a tweet on Sunday, adding that he directed Virginia State Police to review what happened during the stop in the town of Windsor.
U.S. Army second lieutenant Caron Nazario filed a lawsuit earlier this month against two Windsor police officers, accusing them of drawing their guns, pointing them at him and using a slang term to suggest he was facing execution before pepper-spraying him and knocking him to the ground.
“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,” Northam said in his statement calling for a review of the actions.
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 70 miles (112 kilometers) southeast of Richmond.
The Windsor police chief didn’t respond to 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.