US army officer sues police over violent traffic stop
A black US army lieutenant has filed a lawsuit against two policemen who pointed their guns and pepper-sprayed him during a traffic stop.
Army Second Lieutenant Caron Nazario is wearing his uniform during the bodycam footage, taken in December in Virginia.
“I’m honestly afraid to get out,” he tells the two police officers. “Yeah you should be,” an officer says.
Police say he was stopped for failing to display licence plates but temporary plates are visible in the video.
During the incident, the soldier, who was handcuffed while his car was searched, asked why force was being used against him and was told by a police officer: “Because you’re not co-operating.” He was later released without charge.
The suit, filed at the US District Court of Norfolk, Virginia, against the two Windsor Police Department officers, Joe Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker, alleges violations to his constitutional rights, and includes assault, illegal search and illegal detention.
There was no immediate response from the Windsor Police Department.
The lawsuit comes at a time of increased scrutiny over alleged police brutality towards minorities and racial justice.
Ex-police officer Derek Chauvin is currently on trial for the murder of George Floyd. The footage of Mr Chauvin, who is white, with his knee on African-American Mr Floyd’s neck during an arrest sparked global protests against racism.
Lt Nazario, who is Black and Latino, was in uniform and driving with a temporary paper licence plate on his back window on 5 December, when he was told to pull over in the town of Windsor. He then stopped at a petrol station and kept his hands outside the window, while asking the policemen why he was being stopped.
Attorney Jonathan Arthur, who is representing Lt Nazario in the lawsuit, said that the army officer knew it was vital he kept his hands on show.
“To unbuckle his seatbelt, to do anything, any misstep – he was afraid that they were going to kill him,” Mr Arthur told CBS.
The suit filed by Lt Nazario says that Mr Gutierrez acknowledged why the army officer had waited to pull over in a lighted area.
“I get it, the media spewing race relations between law enforcement and minorities. I get it,” the policeman said, according to the suit.