Police search of Army lieutenant's car was illegal, judge says

WTVD logo
Wednesday, August 10, 2022
EMBED <>More Videos

A police officer's search of an Army lieutenant's car during a 2020 traffic stop in Windsor, Virginia, was illegal, a U.S. district court judge wrote.

WINDSOR, Va. (WTVD) -- A police officer's search of an Army lieutenant's car during a 2020 traffic stop in Windsor, Virginia, was illegal, a U.S. district court judge wrote in an opinion Tuesday, ABC affiliate WVEC reported.

The traffic stop led to a lawsuit.

On Dec. 5, 2020, Windsor police officers pulled over Army Lt. Caron Nazario for not having a rear license plate. Though Nazario did have a temporary plate tapes to the inside of the back window, the court later ruled police still had reasonable "probable cause."

Body camera video revealed that after Nazario pulled over, officers pepper-sprayed him and yelled at him.

In the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Nazario alleged officer Daniel Crocker conducted two illegal searches during the traffic stop: one of his vehicle and another for an examination of his firearm.

In a summary judgment released Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Roderick Young said Crocker's search was a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

The judge ruled that searching for a gun in the SUV was a violation because Crocker didn't have a warrant to search the vehicle, Nazario was out of reach of the car and cooperating, and the gun was "not relevant evidence" for a traffic stop.

The judge declined to uphold the claim of illegal search against Joe Gutierrez, another police officer who was a bystander during the search.

According to WVEC, Nazario's attorney, Jonathan Arthur, said they will proceed to trial on the claims of assault, battery, false imprisonment, illegal search under state law and illegal search under the Fourth Amendment.