Duckworth asks DOJ to probe ‘brazenly violent’ police treatment of National Guard officer
Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) is calling for the Justice Department to investigate a Virginia police department after its officers, one of whom has since been fired, held at gunpoint and pepper sprayed a uniformed National Guard officer in an incident caught on camera.
“Given the alarming nature of the video evidence documenting brazenly violent and disrespectful treatment of an Army Officer wearing his uniform, it is logical to infer that this incident may be indicative of widespread law enforcement misconduct,” Duckworth wrote in a letter Wednesday to Attorney General Merrick Garland.
She also asks the Justice Department to investigate whether there is a pattern of “stops, searches, or arrests that violate the Fourth Amendment; use excessive force; conduct discriminatory policing and violate the constitutional rights of criminal suspects,” among police in Windsor, Va.
The letter was first reported by Military.com.
Duckworth, a retired Army National Guard lieutenant colonel who was a combat pilot in the Iraq War, was referring to the footage of Army Second Lt. Caron Nazario, who is Black and Hispanic, during a traffic stop in Windsor.
Nazario can be seen dressed in his uniform and holding his hands up and out of the window of his parked car at a gas station as the officers point their guns at him and order him get out of his vehicle.
At one point Nazario responds, “I’m honestly afraid to get out,” to which one of the cops can be heard saying, “Yeah, you should be!”
An officer then pepper-sprays Nazario multiple times after another attempts to open his car door.
Police claim the stop was due to a missing license plate on Nazario’s SUV, which he disputes, pointing out he had a temporary tag visible in the back window.
One of the police officers involved, Joe Gutierrez, has since been fired after Nazario filed a lawsuit earlier this month asserting that the two violated his constitutional rights. He cites the “disgusting nationwide trend of law enforcement officers, who … engage in unprofessional, discourteous, racially biased, dangerous, and sometimes deadly abuses of authority.”
The Army’s top enlisted leader, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston, earlier this week voiced his support for Nazario, tweeting that he “represented himself and our Army well through his calm, professional response to the situation — I’m very proud of him.”
And Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced on Sunday that he is directing the Virginia State Police to conduct an independent investigation into the traffic stop, which he called “disturbing.”