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Virginia governor orders investigation after police pepper-sprayed Army officer during traffic stop

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced on Sunday that he is directing the Virginia State Police to conduct an independent investigation into a December traffic stop that ended with two Windsor police officers pepper-spraying an Army officer. 

“The incident in Windsor is disturbing and angered me - and I am directing the Virginia State Police to conduct an independent investigation,” Northam wrote in a statement posted to Twitter.

“Our Commonwealth has done important work on police reform, but we must keep working to ensure that Virginians are safe during interactions with police, the enforcement of laws is fair and equitable, and people are held accountable,” he continued.

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Caron Nazario, a second lieutenant in the Army, filed a lawsuit earlier this month arguing that the officers violated his constitutional rights during a traffic stop in the southeastern town of Windsor, located about 46 miles west of Virginia Beach.

In body camera footage shared online by The Associated Press, Nazario, who is Black and Latino, can be seen sitting in his parked car at a gas station, dressed in uniform with his hands up, as the two officers point their guns at him.

The officers were captured on video ordering Nazario to exit his vehicle, to which he responds “I’m honestly afraid to get out.”

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“Yeah, you should be, get out!” one of the officers can be heard responding.

Windsor police officer Daniel Crocker, according to the AP, had earlier radioed the station saying he was trying to pull over a vehicle with tinted windows that appeared to not have a rear license plate.

Another officer, Joe Gutierrez, responded to Crocker’s call and joined him at the scene.

Crocker said the situation was a “high-risk traffic stop,” as he claimed the driver was “eluding police.”

Nazario, however, says he was not trying to escape the officer on his drive home from his duty station, but instead wanted to stop in a well-lit area “for officer safety and out of respect for the officers.”

In the lawsuit, Nazario argued that once the officers arrived at the gas station his rear license plate was clearly visible, but the officers still immediately drew their guns and pointed them at Nazario.

In the statement, Northam said he was inviting Nazario to meet soon, adding “we must all continue the larger dialogue about reform in our country.”

The Hill reached out to the Windsor Police Department and the Virginia State Police for comment.