Gutierrez granted extra time to answer lawsuit

Published 9:15 pm Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Default judgment deadline looms for Crocker

A federal judge on April 27 granted ex-Windsor officer Joe Gutierrez an additional 15 days to respond to Army 2nd Lt. Caron Nazario’s lawsuit accusing him of police brutality.

According to Gutierrez’s attorney, John B. Mumford of the firm Hancock, Daniel & Johnson P.C., a delay is needed to answer the numerous allegations — 51 in total — made in the suit’s statement of facts. As such, the original April 30 deadline for Gutierrez to file a written response has now been extended to May 15.

The lawsuit contends Nazario, who is of Black and Latinx descent, had been driving down Route 460 through Windsor the evening of Dec. 5, 2020 when officers Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker stopped him allegedly for not having a rear license plate. A temporary New York tag was affixed inside the vehicle’s rear window, but the officers claimed they didn’t see it and accused him of “eluding police” — owing to his having driven roughly a mile to a well-lit BP gas station after he saw the flashing blue lights on their patrol cars. The officers’ body camera footage shows both exiting their patrol cars with guns drawn, and a heated verbal exchange, with Gutierrez eventually pepper-spraying the lieutenant and forcing him out of his vehicle and onto the ground.

Nazario’s suit names Crocker as a co-defendant. According to Gutierrez’s written request for a delay, Crocker also has yet to file anything in opposition to Nazario’s suit nor make an appearance in court to request his own delay. According to the summons issued to both officers April 6, each has 21 days to respond per the federal rules of civil procedure before default judgment is entered – meaning if Crocker doesn’t respond, he could potentially be found liable for the $1 million Nazario is seeking.

Mumford said he believes Crocker has retained his own legal counsel, but didn’t know the name of Crocker’s attorney.

Windsor Police Chief Rodney “Dan” Riddle fired Gutierrez April 11, a decision he said during an April 14 press conference had more to do with the video footage of the traffic stop going viral than Gutierrez’s actions themselves. Crocker, whom the chief said he’s known since the officer was a teenager, remains on the force. Windsor’s Town Council has issued a public statement of support for Riddle and Crocker, despite mounting calls from Isle of Wight County’s NAACP chapter for their firing or resignation.