Windsor PD, Nazario settle subpoena fight

Published 6:31 pm Friday, October 8, 2021

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Lawyers representing Army 2nd Lt. Caron Nazario and Windsor’s Police Department reached an agreement Sept. 30 regarding subpoenaed town records.

Nazario is suing WPD Officer Daniel Crocker and one former member of the town’s police department, Joe Gutierrez, 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 lawsuit describes Nazario as being of Black and Latinx descent.

The two officers had pulled Nazario over for allegedly not having a rear license plate, though Nazario had a temporary New York plate displayed in his vehicle’s rear window. 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.

On July 30, Nazario’s attorney, Jonathan Arthur, filed a subpoena requesting all documents, physical and electronic, pertaining to the Dec. 5, 2020 traffic stop, including 23 specific requests. Among these was a request for documents “related to the decision to terminate Joe Gutierrez” and those related to the town’s decision “not to terminate Daniel Crocker.”

Arthur then filed a second subpoena on Aug. 23 seeking personnel files, to include disciplinary and internal affairs reports, for Crocker, Gutierrez and Windsor Police Chief Rodney “Dan” Riddle, among other documents.

The town responded to the July 30 subpoena, but Riddle retained the services of Pender & Coward P.C. — the same law firm defending Crocker against Nazario’s lawsuit — to file a motion to quash the second subpoena. In that motion, he argued Nazario’s attorneys “made no attempt to limit the information requested to account for information previously requested — and produced — pursuant to the first subpoena” and had requested documents “not relevant to the underlying lawsuit.”

The Sept. 30 agreement states all parties “conferred and reached a resolution with regard to the subject subpoena … that will resolve these matters without further Court involvement” over the next 14 days.

“I have received the majority of the documents that I have requested via the Windsor PD subpoena, and we have reached a tentative agreement on the production of the remainder,” Arthur said.

The two subpoenas had further requested documents “relating to the criminal investigation of Daniel Crocker and/or Joe Gutierrez” and correspondence between the town and the FBI, United States Attorney’s Office, Virginia State Police, Virginia Attorney General’s Office and city of Hampton Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office.

Body camera footage of the traffic stop went viral online in April, resulting in Gutierrez’s firing on April 11, but not Crocker’s, and investigations by the Virginia State Police, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring’s Office for Civil Rights and the FBI — all of which “I understood to be criminal investigations at the end of last spring,” Arthur said. “Whether they are ongoing, and what if anything has become of them, I do not know.”

The Virginia State Police provided its completed investigative report to Hampton Commonwealth’s Attorney Anton Bell earlier this year. Bell was named a special prosecutor in May after Isle of Wight County Commonwealth Attorney Georgette Phillips recused herself. Karen Rucker, a spokeswoman for the Hampton Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, said Bell plans to “notify all parties at the proper time” regarding any prosecutorial decisions based on the investigation’s results.

The Virginia Attorney General’s Office, which is conducting a “pattern and practice” investigation of the Windsor Police Department to look for any pattern of discriminatory or abusive policing over the past 10 years, also has not responded to a request for comments on the status of that investigation. Charlotte Gomer, a spokeswoman for Herring, acknowledged receiving the Times’ request on Oct. 7.

Christina Pullen, public affairs officer for the FBI’s Norfolk office, gave no details as to the status of the FBI’s investigation other than to confirm the bureau was aware of the traffic stop, and that it would “review all available facts of the incident to determine what federal response is warranted.”

Nazario’s lawsuit is set for a March 28, 2022 trial.