I Guess They're Not All On The Same Side: Cops Brutalize Soldier For [Checks Notes] Leading Them To A Well-Lit Area
from the whatever-doesn't-kill-you-makes-you-more-of-an-asshole dept
The twist? This time the cops brought their own damnation to the party.
Cops like to pretend they and the boys in actual camouflage uniforms are BFFs, united against the constant threat of evil. Cops think they’re soldiers. It’s unclear whether soldiers think they’re cops, but the people sending them orders certainly think they are. I mean, we don’t go from zero to “Team
USA America: World Police” without some nudges from those on and off the battlefield.
Here’s where this all intersects: two Windsor (VA) officers decided the best response to what appears to be a routine traffic stop was a whole lot of violence, both physical and mental. The body cam video shows just how much at least one officer overreacted to a man who just wanted to survive the unexpected interaction with law enforcement.
This is what happened to Caron Nazario — an Army medic. He bought a new car. And, as everyone knows (including the cops who pulled him over) new cars don’t have rear plates. They have temporary paper tags located inside the rear window where they won’t be destroyed by, say, any weather whatsoever.
Despite this being common knowledge, these officers (Joe Gutierrez, Daniel Crocker) effected a traffic stop. Things were unnecessarily escalated because Nazario chose to do something everyone — even cops — say is a good idea. From the lawsuit [PDF]:
On or around December 5, 2020, at approximately 18:34, Defendant Crocker initiated a traffic stop of Lt. Nazario on US 460 westbound in the Town of Windsor, near the Food Lion, where the speed limit is 35 miles per hour, by activating his emergency lights. The traffic stop was ostensibly for the lack of a rear license plate4 , though the temporary tags were affixed to the back of the vehicle and visible to Crocker during the pursuit. Defendant Gutierrez then joined in the pursuit.
Within seconds, Lt. Nazario submitted to Defendant Crocker’s display of authority and began to slow down. Lt. Nazario also activated his turn signal, to signal his compliance with Crocker’s implied directive to pull over. Crocker admits in real time that Lt. Nazario was complying, by relaying to dispatch that Lt. Nazario was slowing down. Gutierrez, who was listening to Crocker over the radio, was aware of both the reasons for the stop as well as Lt. Nazario’s compliance with Crocker’s signal to slow down and pull over.
It was dark, however, and it appeared to Lt. Nazario that there was no good location in the immediate vicinity to stop safely. So, for the benefit of the officer’s safety and his own, Lt. Nazario continued slowly down US 460, below the posted speed limit, for less than under a mile, until he spotted a well-lighted BP gas station. He pulled over in the parking lot. From the time that Defendant Crocker initiated the traffic stop until the time Lt. Nazario pulled over into the BP parking lot, approximately 1 minute and 40 seconds elapsed and Lt. Nazario had traveled less than a mile.
That’s how long it takes for cops to take things to the next level. No one wants to stop on a dark street. Cops who are concerned about their safety don’t want to perform traffic stops on dark streets. And cops who are concerned about their safety make the rules. (See also: a shitload of qualified immunity decisions.) So, to make sure everyone was safe, Lt. Nazario found the nearest well-lit area and stopped.
I guess that was the wrong decision. According to police spokespeople, Nazario’s careful move towards a lighted area turned this into a felony stop: one that justified whatever paranoia the officers engaged in. There was no pursuit. There was less than two minutes of activated lights before Nazario pulled over and attempted to comply with the officers’ shouted commands.
If you paid attention to the videos, you may have noticed (several) concerning details. First, the cops rolled up like they were dealing with a dangerous criminal — one who led them at low speed to a well-lit, heavily-trafficked area. Then they told him to do things that would endanger his life.
They told him to exit the vehicle. They also told him to keep his hands outside of his vehicle. Lt. Nazario’s seatbelt was still fastened. His door was locked. Complying with one order (exit the vehicle) would result in a violation of other orders (keep your hands outside of the vehicle).
You can’t win, as Lt. Nazario suspected. He pointed this out.
One officer said non-compliance of the conflicting orders would result in Nazario “riding the lightning,” presumably referring to the officer’s Taser. (But it also could refer to an instant death sentence, as being strapped into the electric chair is also referred to as “riding the lightning.” But we’ll stick with the “less lethal” option because we’re being overly charitable here.)
Then there’s the other comment made by the same officer. Nazario — recognizing the situation he’d been forced into by an officer who saw fit to escalate before having any facts in hand — said: “I’m honestly afraid to get out.”
He received this response:
“You should be.”
So, faced with these limited facts, he stayed in his car. For that, he was pepper sprayed and tased. And for that, these officers were sued.
“Command control,” will say any officer worth their suddenly-jeopardized pension. That’s why cops charge into scenes with guns drawn and repeated shouts of contradictory commands. What options did Lt. Nazario have? Lower his hands to unlock the door? Move his hands out of the officers’ sight to undo his seatbelt? He did all he could to avoid being shot. And, saints be praised, he wasn’t. But he was brutalized because Lt. Nazario failed to handcuff himself and teleport into the backseat of the nearest cruiser.
This is American policing. It happens every day. Sometimes, it gets captured on camera. And it shows the cops treat everyone — even those they consider to be comrades in arms in the fight against universal evil — to be nothing more than criminals who haven’t been convicted yet.
A citizen concerned about their own well-being will make officers safer. Instead of recognizing how everyone benefited from moving the stop to well-lit area, the officers chose to view it as a “felony stop” and reacted as though someone was leading them into danger. But the only person they put in peril was a guy just trying to drive his new car home. Hopefully, the court will see through any assertions about “training and experience” or “officer safety” and send these cops back to face a jury.