Nazario lawsuit trial date set

Published 6:00 pm Tuesday, July 20, 2021

A federal judge has set a March 28, 2022, trial date for Army 2nd Lt. Caron Nazario’s lawsuit against one current and one former member of the town of Windsor’s police department.

Nazario, who is described in the lawsuit as of Black and Latinx descent, filed the suit in Norfolk’s federal court April 2. It names WPD Officer Daniel Crocker and ex-officer Joe Gutierrez as co-defendants, accusing each of racially-motivated police brutality during a traffic stop last December, when both officers held the lieutenant at gunpoint and Gutierrez pepper-sprayed him.

The two had pulled Nazario over for allegedly not having a rear license plate. Nazario had a temporary New York license plate displayed in his vehicle’s rear window, but the officers said they didn’t see it and accused the lieutenant of eluding police when he drove roughly a mile down Route 460 to a BP gas station before stopping.

The jury trial is expected to last five days. Per the court order, all parties are required to schedule a settlement conference before United States Magistrate Douglas E. Miller no later than 30 days before the Jan. 12, 2022, deadline for dispositive motions, meaning on or before Dec. 17 of this year.

In a televised interview Nazario’s attorney, Jonathan Arthur, gave outside the Walter E. Hoffman United States Courthouse following a July 20 hearing, he stated he was “looking at adding additional parties” to the case aside from Crocker and Gutierrez, but didn’t specify to whom he was referring.

Body camera footage of the incident went viral online in April, resulting in Gutierrez’s firing on April 11 — but not Crocker’s — and state and federal probes into the department’s conduct. Crocker and Gutierrez had previously requested the lawsuit be delayed until pending investigations by the Virginia State Police, Virginia Attorney General’s Office and FBI were complete, which Judge Roderick C. Young denied on June 29.

Young has yet to rule on Gutierrez’s and Crocker’s motions to have Nazario’s claims of First Amendment violations dismissed from the lawsuit.