Police officer who pepper-sprayed US Army soldier fired

Published
media captionThe traffic stop was captured on police bodycam footage

A police officer in Virginia has been fired after pointing a gun at, and pepper spraying, a black US army lieutenant during a traffic stop.

Army Second Lieutenant Caron Nazario is wearing his uniform in bodycam footage of the incident, filmed in December.

"I'm honestly afraid to get out," he tells two police officers. "Yeah, you should be," an officer says.

Police said he was stopped for failing to display number plates but temporary plates are visible in the video.

Lt Nazario filed a lawsuit against the two officers, Joe Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker, this week.

In a statement, officials in the town of Windsor in Virginia said the incident had resulted in "disciplinary action, and department-wide requirements for additional training were implemented beginning in January and continue up to the present".

"Since that time, Officer Gutierrez was also terminated from his employment," it added.

"The Town has also requested an investigation of this event by the Virginia State Police, and joins with elected officials who have called for a full and complete review of the actions of these officers."

On Sunday, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said the incident was "disturbing" and had "angered" him.

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What happened during the traffic stop?

During the incident the soldier, who was handcuffed while his car was searched, asked why force was being used against him. He was told by a police officer: "Because you're not co-operating."

He was later released without charge.

Earlier this week Lt Nazario filed a lawsuit at the US District Court of Norfolk, Virginia, against the two Windsor Police Department officers.

According to the lawsuit, Lt Nazario was pepper sprayed and knocked to the ground by the officers. Bodycam footage shows the officers pointing their guns at the lieutenant.

The suit alleges violations to his constitutional rights, and includes assault, illegal search and illegal detention.

The lawsuit comes at a time of increased scrutiny over alleged police brutality towards minorities and racial justice.

Ex-police officer Derek Chauvin is currently on trial for the murder of George Floyd. The footage of Mr Chauvin, who is white, with his knee on African-American Mr Floyd's neck during an arrest sparked global protests against racism.

What else do we know?

Lt Nazario, who is Black and Latino, was in uniform and driving with a temporary paper licence plate on his back window on 5 December, when he was told to pull over in the town of Windsor.

He then stopped at a petrol station and kept his hands outside the window, while asking the policemen why he was being stopped.

Attorney Jonathan Arthur, who is representing Lt Nazario in the lawsuit, said that the army officer knew it was vital he kept his hands on show.

"To unbuckle his seatbelt, to do anything, any misstep - he was afraid that they were going to kill him," Mr Arthur told CBS.

The suit filed by Lt Nazario says that Mr Gutierrez acknowledged why the army officer had waited to pull over in a lighted area.

"I get it, the media spewing race relations between law enforcement and minorities. I get it," the policeman said, according to the suit.

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