Army Officer Suing 2 Virginia Police Officers After Violent Traffic Stop Footage Goes Viral

A U.S. Army officer is suing two Virginia police officers following a violent traffic stop that recently went viral online.

In December, Lt. Caron Nazario was driving his SUV when Windsor Police Officer Daniel Crocker attempted to pull him over for having no rear license plate and tinted windows, the Associated Press reported.

The vehicle was new and Nazario didn't have permanent license plates just yet, but had "cardboard temporary plates" on the inside of the rear window, according to Nazario's lawsuit as cited by CNN.

The Windsor Police Department did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

According to a report Crocker submitted after the incident, which was also included in the court filing, Crocker said the Black and Latino military officer was "eluding police" and he considered it a "high-risk traffic stop," the AP reported.

Nazario's attorney, Jonathan Arthur, told the outlet that his client was attempting to stop in an area with better lighting "for officer safety and out of respect for the officers."

At the time, another officer, Joe Gutierrez, then joined in on the pursuit after hearing Crocker's call, as Nazario drove his SUV to a gas station. There, according to Nazario's complaint obtained by the AP, the two officers got out of their cars and drew their guns at Nazario.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/rhqY4vUMjRQ

Footage of the incident obtained by multiple news outlets shows Nazario questioning the officer's actions. "What's going on?" he says in the video taken with his cell phone, before one of the officers questions how many occupants are in the vehicle.

Then, the officers tell Nazario to open the vehicle door and step out, to which he tells them, "I'm not getting out of the vehicle. What's going on?"

As officers approach his vehicle, Nazario is heard saying, "I'm serving this country, and this is how I'm treated?" before Gutierrez responds that he is also a veteran and "learned to obey."

In another moment, Gutierrez is heard telling Nazario he was "fixin' to ride the lightning, son," a slang reference to the electric chair.

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"I've not committed any crime," Nazario continues to say in the footage obtained from the incident. "I'm honestly afraid to get out."

"Yeah dude, you should be," one officer replies as he tries to open the door to Nazario's SUV.

After the officers attempt to pull Nazario — who kept his hands raised in the air the whole time — out of his vehicle, one of the officers pepper sprays the army vet four times, according to CNN, which cited Nazario's complaint.

After being pepper-sprayed, and with his eyes closed, Nazario was brought to the ground of the gas station and handcuffed. "Why am I being treated like this? Why?" Nazario asks, to which one of the officers replies, "Because you're not cooperating."

Nazario's lawsuit, which was filed in US District Court, claims unlawful seizure, excessive force, illegal search, violating his First Amendment right to free speech, and common law assault, battery and false imprisonment, according to CNN.

"These cameras captured footage of behavior consistent with a disgusting nationwide trend of law enforcement officers, who, believing they can operate with complete impunity, engage in unprofessional, discourteous, racially biased, dangerous, and sometimes deadly abuses of authority, (including issuing unreasonable comply-or-die commands,) ignore the clearly established mandates of the Constitution of these United States and the state and local laws, and usurp the roles of legislator, judge, jury, and executioner; substituting the rule of law for their arbitrary and illegal conduct," the complaint said.

Nazario is now seeking $1 million in compensatory damages.

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