One of two police officers in the US state of Virginia accused of assaulting an army lieutenant by pointing their guns and pepper-spraying him during a traffic stop has been fired, according to an official statement.
Officer Joe Gutierrez was terminated from his employment after an investigation determined he did not follow the policies of the local police department, the town of Windsor, Virginia, said in a statement on Sunday local time. The report did not detail any breaches or punishments for the other officer involved in the incident, Daniel Crocker. During the incident, which was caught on camera, lieutenant Caron Nazario, who is black and Latino, repeatedly asked what he had done wrong and said, “this is really messed up,” as the officers holding guns demanded he gets out of his car.
The police accused him of not cooperating.
Mr. Nazario, wearing his military uniform, was driving a newly-bought SUV when the officers ordered him to pull over because he did not have permanent license plates, news reports said.
In a statement earlier on Sunday, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said he had instructed police to conduct an “independent investigation” into the incident, which he said was “disturbing and angered me.”
Police in the United States have been hit with multiple allegations of racism and misconduct, including the death of a black man in Minneapolis last year in a case that attracted international outrage.
A police officer is currently on trial over George Floyd’s death, facing charges of manslaughter and murder.
The Washington Post said that Mr. Nazario, a health administration officer with the Virginia National Guard, was driving home on 5 December when he was pulled over.
Footage from the officers’ bodycams and Mr. Nazario’s phone spread rapidly over the weekend after Mr. Nazario filed a lawsuit on 2 April seeking USD 1 million in damages.
He was released without charge after the incident.
The lawsuit reportedly claims police threatened to end his military career if he spoke out about the officers’ conduct. “We must keep working to ensure Virginians are safe during interactions with police, the enforcement of laws is fair and equitable, and people are held accountable,” Mr Northam said.