A U.S. Army soldier, Caron Nazario, who previously sued police officers for alleged misconduct during a traffic stop in rural southern Virginia, is seeking a new trial through a federal appeals court filing. Nazario, a 2nd Army Lieutenant, expressed dissatisfaction with the relatively small jury award of nearly $4,000 in compensatory and punitive damages he received in January.
He initially sought $1 million in damages for the December 2020 traffic stop conducted by Windsor police officers Daniel Crocker and Joe Gutierrez, which escalated into violence. The jury largely sided with the police, concluding that Nazario was not subjected to battery, false imprisonment, or an illegal vehicle search.
In his appeal filed with the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Nazario contends that the lower court incorrectly ruled that the officers had probable cause to believe he was evading arrest. He also challenges whether he obstructed justice or failed to obey orders, and he argues that his claims of unreasonable seizure and excessive force were wrongly dismissed.
Nazario's attorney asserted that the tense situation during the traffic stop was primarily due to the officers' behavior, not Nazario's. They emphasized that Nazario's decision to remain in his vehicle was justified, and his reaction was calm and non-threatening.
The incident in question involved Nazario, off-duty and in uniform, being pulled over for a missing rear license plate. Police body camera footage showed officers drawing their firearms and using pepper spray on Nazario, who was ultimately handcuffed and interrogated without being arrested.
Caron Nazario argued that Gutierrez's comment about "riding the lightning" was a threat, while the officer's legal team maintained it referred to a stun gun and wasn't meant as a threat of lethal force. Gutierrez was fired in April 2021, while Crocker remained on the force.
We will continue to follow this story as more details come out.