Virginia police officer accused of assaulting U.S. Army officer fired

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[April 12, 2021]    (Reuters) - One of two police officers in Virginia accused of assaulting a U.S. Army lieutenant by pointing their guns and pepper spraying him during a traffic stop has been fired, according to an official statement.

U.S. Army 2nd Lieutenant Caron Nazario is sprayed with a chemical agent by Windsor police officer Joe Gutierrez at a gas station during a violent traffic stop in a still image from officer Daniel Crocker's body camera taken in Windsor, Virginia, U.S. May 12, 2020. Windsor Police/Handout via REUTERS

Officer Joe Gutierrez was terminated from his employment after an investigation determined he did not follow policies of the local police department, the town of Windsor, Virginia said in a statement  Sunday.

The statement did not detail any breaches or punishments for the other officer involved in the incident, Daniel Crocker.

The firing comes after Army officer Caron Nazario filed a lawsuit against the two police officers in federal court over what court papers say was a violent traffic stop on Dec. 5, 2020, where officers pointed their guns, knocked him to the ground, pepper sprayed him and "threatened to murder him."

Nazario, who is Latino and Black, alleged Gutierrez and Crocker violated his constitutional rights, with his lawsuit including assault, illegal search and illegal detention.

Earlier on Sunday, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said  he was directing the Virginia State Police to conduct an independent investigation into the case.

Windsor town joined the governor in calling for an investigation of the incident by the Virginia police and a full review of the actions of the two police officers.

(Reporting by Aakriti Bhalla in Bengaluru; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

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