Virginia AG sues town where Army officer was pepper sprayed during traffic stop

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D) on Thursday sued a city in the commonwealth after two local police officers pepper-sprayed an Army officer during a December 2020 traffic stop.

Herring filed the lawsuit against Windsor after his office conducted a 14-month investigation into data that revealed Black drivers made up nearly 42 percent of traffic stops conducted by the city’s police, according to The Virginian-Pilot.

Windsor police were also found to have searched vehicles driven by Black citizens more frequently than those with white drivers despite Black drivers being a minority of the state population, The Virginian-Pilot reported.

Body camera footage from last December showed Caron Nazario, a second lieutenant in the Army, parked at a local gas station with his hands up as two Windsor officers point their guns at him.

After Nazario said he was afraid to exit his vehicle over concerns that the officers might harm him, he was pepper-sprayed.

Nazario filed a lawsuit earlier this year arguing that his constitutional rights were violated during the traffic stop.

“While our investigation was spurred by the egregious treatment against Lt. Nazario that we all saw in bodycam footage, we discovered that this incident was indicative of much larger problems within the department,” Herring reportedly said in a press release issued Thursday.

“Our months-long investigation uncovered huge disparities in enforcement against African American drivers, and a troubling lack of policies and procedures to prevent discriminatory or unconstitutional policing. We even discovered evidence that officers were actually being trained to go ‘fishing’ and engage in pretextual stops.”

Herring’s lawsuit seeks court-ordered policy changes in the Windsor Police Department, an order banning the department from carrying out discriminatory activities and a third party to monitor the department to make sure that it complies with Virginia Public Integrity and Law Enforcement Misconduct Act, the U.S. Constitution and the Virginia Human Rights Act, The Virginian-Pilot reported.

“The Department lacks adequate policies to ensure that it is using force in a non-discriminatory manner, that it is performing traffic stops in a constitutional, non-pretextual, and bias-free manner, and that members of the public are able to submit and have their complaints heard in a transparent way that upholds the principles of due process,” Herring’s complaint reportedly states.

Herring, who lost his reelection bid last month to Republican Jason Miyares, is set to leave office on Jan. 15.

Tags Caron Nazario Law enforcement Mark Herring Racial discrimination Searches and seizures Traffic stop Virginia Windsor

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