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Governor, activist groups demand accountability, investigation into Virginia traffic stop

Body camera footage of the stop has spread online, triggering a nationwide outcry for action and transparency.

ISLE OF WIGHT COUNTY, Va. — Body camera footage of a traffic stop in Windsor has triggered calls from some state leaders and national activist groups for accountability, transparency and further investigation into the incident.

A second lieutenant in the U.S. Army sued two Windsor officers over a traffic stop late last year during which the officers threatened him and his military career.

Body camera video shows one officer pepper-spray Lt. Nazario after he and another officer pulled him over and drew their guns. That video has made its way across social media platforms and garnered national attention.

RELATED: Lawsuit claims Windsor police officers drew guns, pepper-sprayed uniformed Army officer during traffic stop

Governor Northam tweeted a statement Sunday afternoon, describing the incident as "disturbing." He also called on the Virginia State Police to launch an independent investigation.

Sunday night, Virginia State Police announced it's launching an independent criminal investigation into the incident.

Other state leaders and high-profile figures publicly spoke out about the incident describing it as "horrifying" and "unacceptable."

During an interview with 13News Now on Sunday, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring shared his thoughts on the incident.

“There was nothing I saw in that video to justify their conduct. It was unacceptable, it’s dangerous and it’s got to stop," said Herring. “Looking at the video, he was the calmest person there doing his best and it should not happen to him it should not happen to anyone in Virginia."

Herring, like many other state leaders, has a lot of questions about the incident.. He said he hopes to get answers through an independent investigation.

“It should get us the answers we need about what happened, and have there been other incidents like this with these particular officers or the department?," said Herring. 

The NAACP tweeted about the footage and called for an end to qualified immunity.

It also drove an NAACP chapter in Isle of Wight County to launch its own separate investigation into the incident.

Representative Bobby Scott demanded a federal investigation while advocating for a legislative measure that was introduced after the death of George Floyd:

“I was horrified when I viewed the recently released video footage of the police treatment of Caron Nazario, a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. This should have been a routine traffic stop and the video speaks for itself. The release of this video also comes while the Hampton Roads community is still mourning the loss of Donovan Lynch who was killed by officers while their body worn cameras were not activated. Both of these instances should be investigated by federal authorities.

“These dangerous and tragic events highlight why the House of Representatives passed the George Floyd Justice In Policing Act. I urge my Senate colleagues to immediately pass this legislation and send it to President Biden’s desk for signature. It would be a critical first step in reforming policing in America.”

The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus also released a statement, making similar demands as Congressman Scott for both Windsor officers to be investigated:

"As the recently released appalling video of U.S. Army Lieutenant Caron Nazario makes clear, not even a military uniform and brave service to this country can shield Black and Brown Virginians from racist police harassment and brutality. In stark contrast stands the shield of qualified/sovereign immunity, which allows law enforcement to engage in racist brutality with little to no consequences.

We must revolutionize police accountability here in Virginia. These officers must be investigated immediately and held accountable for their atrocious actions.

Virginia had the opportunity to address this issue last session and the session before with Delegate Jeff Bourne’s HB 2045. His bill would have held law enforcement responsible for engaging in unlawful or abusive actions by providing Virginians victimized by police brutality with an avenue for redress. The legislation also would have worked to deter and prevent future incidents. Sadly this legislation was defeated. 

We urge our colleagues in the General Assembly to adopt this necessary reform next session. These wanton acts of racist aggression from law enforcement cannot be allowed to continue."