Police officer fired 4 months after soldier’s traffic stop

WINDSOR, Va. (AP) — A police officer accused of pepper-spraying and pointing his gun at a Black Army lieutenant in Virginia was fired four months after the traffic stop occurred and two days after videos of the incident drew national attention.

William Saunders, who is the Windsor town manager, confirmed in an email Tuesday that police Officer Joe Gutierrez was fired Sunday. Saunders did not elaborate on the timing of Gutierrez’s termination.

U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Caron Nazario recently filed a federal lawsuit against Gutierrez and another officer, Daniel Crocker, who remains on the force. Nazario was never charged with a crime and is alleging in his lawsuit that his constitutional rights were violated.

Videos of the December traffic stop in the small town have elicited outrage among many and prompted calls for transparency and further investigation from Virginia’s governor and attorney general.

Windsor officials said Sunday that department policy wasn’t followed during the traffic stop and Gutierrez had been fired. But the news release did not say when he was terminated.

A lawyer for Nazario said Monday that Crocker needs to be fired, too.

No attorneys have been listed for Crocker or Gutierrez in court documents.

The incident began when Crocker radioed that he was attempting to stop a vehicle with no rear license plate and tinted windows. He said the driver was “eluding police” and he considered it a “high-risk traffic stop,” according to the report he submitted afterward, which was included in the court filing.

Nazario drove his SUV to a well-lit gas station where, according to the lawsuit, the two officers got out of their cars and immediately drew their guns and pointed them at Nazario.

The officers attempted to pull Nazario out of the vehicle while he continued to keep his hands in the air. Gutierrez then stepped back and pepper-sprayed Nazario multiple times as officers yelled for him to get out of the car.

Nazario got out of the vehicle and asked for a supervisor. Gutierrez responded with “knee-strikes” to his legs, knocking him to the ground, the lawsuit says. The two officers struck him multiple times, then handcuffed and interrogated him.

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