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Army lieutenant pepper-sprayed in Virginia traffic stop receives $3,685 in damages

In this image taken from Windsor, Va., police body camera footage, Lt. Caron Nazario is helped by an EMT after he was pepper-sprayed by Windsor police during a traffic stop in Windsor, on Dec. 20, 2020.
AP
In this image taken from Windsor, Va., police body camera footage, Lt. Caron Nazario is helped by an EMT after he was pepper-sprayed by Windsor police during a traffic stop in Windsor, on Dec. 20, 2020.

Caron Nazario, an Army lieutenant who was held at gunpoint and pepper-sprayed by Virginia police during a 2020 traffic stop, was awarded $3,685 in damages Tuesday.

Nazario, who is Black and Latino, sued two officers of the Windsor Police Department in April 2021. The federal lawsuit accused the officers of assault and racial profiling. Nazario sought $1 million in damages.

On Tuesday, the jury awarded Nazario $1,000 in punitive damages after finding that Officer Daniel Crocker conducted an illegal search under state law, and $2,685 in compensatory damages after finding that Officer Joseph Gutierrez, who was fired after the incident, assaulted Nazario.

Additionally, the jury found that Crocker violated Nazario's Fourth Amendment right to refuse a search, but that he did so without malice, and decided not to grant Nazario any damages for that offense. It also found neither of the officers guilty of falsely imprisoning Nazario.

Nazario was behind the wheel of his newly purchased Chevy Tahoe, according to the lawsuit, when he was pulled over by police in Windsor, Va., in December 2020.

In a report filed on the night of the incident, Gutierrez said they were treating it as a "high risk traffic stop" because Nazario's vehicle had no license plate displayed, he took a long time to stop and he had "extremely dark" window tints.

Nazario's lawyer said the car had temporary plates taped to the rear and side windows and he was simply looking for a well-lit place to pull over.

Nazario was handcuffed and interrogated while waiting for paramedics to treat his eyes after being pepper-sprayed, but he was not arrested, according to his lawsuit.

The incident was captured on body cameras and Nazario's cellphone.

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Ayana Archie