The Virginia attorney general said on Monday that he was investigating whether there was an “illegal standard or practice of conduct” at the Windsor Police Department after a U.S. Army uniformed black doctor was at gunpoint and drenched with pepper spray by its leaders.
Two members of the Police Department stopped in traffic at Caron Nazario, a second lieutenant in the US Army Medical Corps, in December, during which one of the officers, Joe Gutierrez, threatened Lieutenant Nazario before spraying him. of pepper and push it to the ground, according to the images from the body camera of the episode.
Gutierrez’s actions were “terrible” and “dangerous,” Mark Herring, the attorney general, said in an interview with CNN late on Monday.
His office has requested records from the Windsor Police Department since a decade ago, as part of its investigation into “whether there may have been a pattern of police misconduct on the part of these officers specifically or more widely within the department,” Mr. Herring said.
“If so,” he said, “then we have more work to do to make sure it never happens there again.”
Mr. Gutierrez He was fired after the Police Department conducted an internal investigation into the episode and determined that it did not follow the department’s policies, the city said in a demonstration on Sunday.
An investigation was underway by the Virginia State Police, Herring said, adding that it was also important to have an “independent, unaffiliated agency to fully investigate and ensure that there is accountability”.
The attorney general’s investigation sought to determine whether “this is an isolated incident” or whether there have been previous complaints of “unconstitutional policing or brutality” by officials or the department, said Herring, a Democrat who is race for re-election this year.
The attorney general’s office requested the personnel records of the two police officers involved in the traffic stop, as well as records of any complaints to the department in the past 10 years regarding the use of force, traffic stops or “race-based treatment, color and / or nationality ”, according to a letter sent this Monday to the delegate, Rodney Daniel Riddle.
A representative of Chief Riddle did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The city said in its previous statement that the episode resulted in disciplinary action and “department-wide requirements for additional training”, and that Windsor “would continue to provide information related to this event in its commitment to openness”.
Lieutenant Nazario filed a lawsuit in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia this month accusing police officers of illegally searching his car, using excessive force and violating his rights under the First Amendment. The lawsuit seeks $ 1 million in compensatory damages.
In the footage of the traffic stop, Lieutenant Nazario says to the police: “I am serving this country and is that how I am treated? What is happening?”
Mr. Gutierrez shouts, “What is happening is that you are getting ready to mount the lightning, son.”
In the process, Lieutenant Nazario also accused the police of threatening to destroy his military career by accusing him of multiple crimes if he complained about his conduct.
Mr. Gutierrez told Lieutenant Nazario that the police chief had given him the freedom to let him go, as long as the lieutenant did not “fight and argue”. Mr. Gutierrez also threatened that he would write a subpoena if Lieutenant Nazario did not “relax” with the traffic stop, and that the Army would be alerted if a subpoena was drawn up. Lieutenant Nazario said he would alert his supervisors to what happened.
Michael Grinston, Sergeant Major of the Army, said in a tweet on Monday, he was proud of Lieutenant Nazario, who he said he “represented well to himself and our Army through his professional and calm response to the situation”.
In his interview with CNN, Mr. Herring said that “it was Lieutenant Nazario who was calm – who was responsible”.