BED-STUY, Brooklyn — Army 2nd Lt. Caron Nazario has not spoken publicly since the video surfaced of his encounter with Virginia police, and triggered national outrage.
This afternoon, in his first public appearance, Nazario wanted to thank the Brooklyn community he grew up in.
“This has been a challenging experience, also a life-changing experience not just for me, but also for my family,” said Nazario.
The incident took place last December, but only recently came to light. It is the latest in a spate of encounters with police that have drawn anger from the public.
The army officer is now suing the two officers involved, saying they violated his constitutional rights. Nazario was held at gunpoint and pepper-sprayed.
Nazario could not say much due to the ongoing lawsuit against Virginia police. He was surrounded by family, including his grandmother, who is a former NYPD officer.
Lt. Nazario was honored by Borough President Eric Adams on the steps of Brooklyn Borough Hall.
“I sat down and watched that video with my son and showed him this is the reality of young Black and brown boys across America,” said Adams. “It doesn’t matter if it’s Virginia or Vernon Avenue in Brooklyn, this is your reality and the reality we want to change.”
Nazario, 27, is Black and Latino and was wearing his uniform that fateful night. Windsor, Virginia police said he was pulled over because he didn’t have plates. Nazario was driving his new car and according to the lawsuit, the temporary plate was taped to the back of the car window and was visible.
At one point body cam footage shows Nazario with both his hands up and outside the driver side window, telling officers he was quote “honestly afraid to get out.”
One of the two police officers, Joe Gutierrez is heard saying “you should be“ and telling Nazario “you’re fixin’ to ride the lightning,” an expression referring to the electric chair.
Community leaders today saying Nazario is a respectful young man and it’s his discipline that kept the situation from a deadly outcome. Nazario grew up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant and attended George Westinghouse High School, where he was involved in ROTC.
“He’s what we call in Bed-Stuy the pride and joy of Bed-Stuy,” said the Rev. Conrad Tillard. “We want the county to know this young man is a true American hero.”
Tillard also called him a sterling young man and spoke of how Nazario’s grandmother had talks with him on what to do if he were stopped by police.
“Due to this challenging experience, we’ve seen an outpouring of love and support from around the world. I’d like to say thank you to my home community Bedford Stuyvesant all of Brooklyn everyone around the world,” said Nazario.
The police officer who unleashed the pepper sprayed has been fired. Borough President Eric Adams is also calling on the officer to be brought up on charges, tried and convicted.
Correction: Nazario’s age has been updated.