On December 5,2020, U.S. Army Lt. Caron Nazario, who is Black and Latino, was driving his brand-new Chevy Tahoe when he got the police lights in the rearview mirror. He was in uniform at the time of the stop.
Knowing what could happen to People of Color during even routine police stops, Nazario did not immediately pull over. But he did put on his emergency lights, and continued on driving, under the speed limit, for about a minute-and-a-half, until he could safely park in a well-lit gas station parking lot.
At the gas station, Windsor Police Officers Joe Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker pulled their guns on Nazario for the crime of driving without license plates even though a new vehicle tag was clearly visible in Lt. Nazario's rear window.
Lt. Nazario says he followed police commands to keep his hands outside the vehicle, but says officers became agitated when he asked why he was being stopped, as is his right. That’s when Gutierrez says—and he is heard on police body cams:
"What's going on? You're fixin' to ride the lightning, son?"
Nazario's attorney Jonathan Arthur says, in Nazario’s lawsuit, that ‘ride the lightning’ is a colloquial expression for an execution, originating from glib reference to execution by the electric chair”. And while Virginia recently outlawed capital punishment, the state has executed prisoners via the electric chair for more than a century.
Nazario is heard telling the officers that he was “honestly afraid to get out” of his SUV, and Officer Gutierrez replies:
“Yeah, you should be!”
The officers then pepper sprayed Nazario multiple times, "causing him substantial and immediate pain," damaged Nazario’s new car, and choked his dog, who was crated in the rear of the vehicle.
Gutierrez responded with knee-strikes to Lt. Nazario's legs to force an already compliant and blinded Lt. Nazario down on his face ostensibly to handcuff him. And while he was on the ground, and in tears, Gutierrez and Crocker continued to strike him. They also warned him not to complain about their treatment of him, and threatened to criminally charge him; if, however, Nazario, according to , the lawsuit, would "chill and let this go," then no charges would be filed.
Lt. Caron Nazario was not criminally charged or cited for any traffic violation.
Huh. I guess there is no law on the books about Black Men Driving New Cars in Windsor, Virginia.
A town manager says Officers Joe Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker still work for the police department.
See the video at NBC News
If you were white …
UPDATE: Officer Joe Gutierrez has been fired from the Windsor Police Department. Daniel Crocker, however, still has his job.