Soldier won’t get new trial to sue police over violent stop

May 4, 2023, 1:49 PM

FILE - In this image taken from Windsor, Va., Police body camera footage, U.S. Army Lt. Caron Nazar...

FILE - In this image taken from Windsor, Va., Police body camera footage, U.S. Army Lt. Caron Nazario is helped by an EMT after he was pepper-sprayed by Windsor police during a traffic stop in Windsor, Dec. 20, 2020. On Wednesday, May 3, 2023, a federal judge denied a request for a new trial by Nazario who sued police after he was pepper sprayed, struck and handcuffed — but never arrested — during a traffic stop in rural Virginia. (Windsor Police via AP, File)

(Windsor Police via AP, File)

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — A U.S. Army soldier won’t get a new trial for his lawsuit against two police officers after he was pepper- sprayed, struck and handcuffed during a traffic stop in rural Virginia, a federal judge has ruled.

Video of the incident in the small town of Windsor got millions of views after Caron Nazario filed his lawsuit in 2021. For many, the stop highlighted fears of mistreatment among Black drivers and raised questions about reasonable police conduct.

Nazario, who was never arrested, sought $1 million in damages in his initial lawsuit. But in January, a jury in Richmond mostly sided with two police officers and awarded the soldier a total of $3,685.

Nazario almost immediately requested a new trial, claiming the jury’s verdict was against the clear weight of the evidence, among other grounds.

U.S. District Judge Roderick C. Young disagreed. In a ruling issued Wednesday, Young wrote that Nazario “makes no showing that the jury’s findings were not within their discretion.”

“The jury is at liberty to weigh the credibility of the evidence as it sees fit,” the judge wrote.

The traffic stop occurred about 30 miles west of Norfolk in December 2020. Video shows Windsor police officers Daniel Crocker and Joe Gutierrez pointing handguns at a uniformed Nazario behind the wheel of his Chevy Tahoe at a gas station.

The officers repeatedly commanded Nazario to exit his SUV, with Gutierrez warning at one point that Nazario was “fixing to ride the lightning” when he didn’t get out.

Nazario held his hands in the air outside the driver’s side window and continually asked why he was being stopped.

Nazario also said: “I’m honestly afraid to get out.”

“You should be,” Gutierrez responded.

Nazario stayed in the vehicle. Gutierrez went on to pepper-spray him through the open window. Once Nazario exited the SUV, the officers commanded him to get on the ground, with Gutierrez using his knees to strike Nazario’s legs, the soldier’s lawsuit stated.

In court documents, Nazario said he developed anxiety, depression and PTSD. A psychologist found that Nazario, who is Black and Latino, suffers from race-based trauma associated with violent police encounters.

“Mr. Nazario recalls that he thought he was going to die that evening,” his lawsuit stated.

Nazario sued Crocker and Gutierrez. Crocker was still on the force. But Gutierrez was fired in April 2021, the same month Nazario filed his lawsuit.

The men denied ever threatening to kill Nazario. They contended that Nazario misconstrued Gutierrez’s statement that Nazario was “fixing to ride the lightning.” Gutierrez spoke those words while holstering his gun and drawing his Taser and was referencing his stun gun, not an execution, according to court filings.

Crocker and Gutierrez argued that they performed their duties within the law after Nazario failed to immediately pull over and refused to exit his vehicle. Plus, a federal judge already found they had probable cause to stop Nazario for an improperly displayed license plate, and to charge him with eluding police, as well as obstruction of justice and failure to obey.

In court filings, Gutierrez questioned the extent of Nazario’s mental anguish and pointed out that the solider was still in the National Guard in the months leading up to the trial.

During the trial in January, the jury had to consider Nazario’s allegations that he was illegally searched, assaulted, battered and falsely imprisoned.

The jury found Gutierrez liable for assault and awarded Nazario $2,685 in compensatory damages.

The jury also awarded Nazario $1,000 in punitive damages for Crocker’s illegal search of Nazario’s SUV. A federal judge had already ruled that Crocker was liable for the search.

But the jury found in favor of Crocker and against Nazario’s claims of assault and battery and false imprisonment. The jury also found in favor of Gutierrez regarding the soldier’s claims of battery, false imprisonment and illegal search.

While denying Nazario’s request for a new trial on Wednesday, the judge acknowledged that “reasonable persons could find” for the soldier. But Young also wrote that the weight and credibility of the evidence wasn’t enough to “require the extraordinary step of overturning a jury verdict.”

Young did agree with Nazario on one matter: Based on Virginia law, the soldier was owed compensatory damages on top of the $1,000 in punitive damages the jury awarded for Crocker’s illegal search.

Nazario was awarded $1 in nominal damages “in order to vindicate his rights under the U.S. Constitution,” the judge wrote.

United States News

FILE - Republican U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart looks on during his town hall meeting on March 31, 2017, ...

Associated Press

Utah to hold election for retiring congressman’s seat in November

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah Gov. Spencer Cox said on Wednesday that the election to replace resigning U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart will take place in the fall, expediting the timeline prescribed by state law to ensure the six-term Republican’s seat doesn’t remain vacant for more than a few months. Stewart informed Cox, also a […]

18 hours ago

The Connecticut State Capitol building is seen in Hartford, Conn., Monday, Oct. 1, 2012. Connecticu...

Associated Press

Connecticut to adjourn largely bipartisan session in contrast to rancor in other states

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut’s Democratic-controlled General Assembly passed protections for abortion providers and gave more power to libraries facing book challenges — and they did it with Republican support. All but 13 Republicans voted for the major gun control bill that’s already being challenged in court. Bucking the partisan rancor seen in other legislatures […]

18 hours ago

Associated Press

6 arrested in alleged scheme to fraudulently collect millions in COVID aid meant for renters

SEATTLE (AP) — Six people from Washington, Arizona and Texas have been arrested and accused of fraudulently obtaining millions of dollars of COVID-19 aid from an assistance program meant for renters, federal prosecutors said. U.S. Attorney Nick Brown, Western District of Washington, on Wednesday announced the arrests and charges of wire fraud and money laundering. […]

18 hours ago

Associated Press

2 Connecticut officers fired over treatment of man paralyzed in police van after 2022 arrest

The City of New Haven, Connecticut, fired two police officers Wednesday for what authorities called their reckless actions and lack of compassion toward Richard “Randy” Cox, who was injured and became paralyzed in the back of a police van after his arrest last year. City police commissioners voted to dismiss Jocelyn Lavandier and Luis Rivera […]

18 hours ago

President Joe Biden speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House, Wednesday, June 7, 2023, in...

Associated Press

Biden vetoes bill to cancel student debt relief

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Wednesday vetoed legislation that would have canceled his plan to forgive student debt. The measure had been pushed by Republicans, but it garnered a handful of Democratic votes in the Senate as well. “It is a shame for working families across the country that lawmakers continue to pursue […]

18 hours ago

Associated Press

Grand jury indicts 2 Bureau of Prisons employees in inmate’s death

PETERSBURG, Va. (AP) — A grand jury has indicted two federal Bureau of Prisons employees for allegedly failing to provide medical care for an inmate in Virginia who had a serious medical emergency and later died, the Justice Department announced Wednesday. Lt. Shronda Covington, 47, and registered nurse Tonya Farley, 52, face charges of allegedly […]

18 hours ago

Sponsored Articles



Why drug-free weight loss still matters

Wanting to lose weight is a common goal for many people as they progress throughout life, but choosing between a holistic approach or to take medicine can be a tough decision.

(Photo: OCD & Anxiety Treatment Center)...

OCD & Anxiety Treatment Center

Here’s what you need to know about OCD and where to find help

It's fair to say that most people know what obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders generally are, but there's a lot more information than meets the eye about a mental health diagnosis that affects about one in every 100 adults in the United States.

(Photo by Michael Matthey/picture alliance via Getty Images)...

Cox Communications

Valley Boys & Girls Club uses esports to help kids make healthy choices

KTAR’s Community Spotlight focuses on the Boys & Girls Club of the Valley and the work to incorporate esports into children's lives.

Soldier won’t get new trial to sue police over violent stop