RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A lawsuit against a Virginia town that alleges its police department has operated in a way that led to unlawful racial discrimination and violated individuals’ constitutional rights can move forward, a judge ruled Thursday.
The Office of the Attorney General initially brought the lawsuit against the small southeastern Virginia town of Windsor in December, after an investigation prompted by a 2020 traffic stop involving two Windsor police officers and Caron Nazario, an Army lieutenant.
Video of the incident showed the officers drawing their guns, pointing them at Nazario, who is Black and Latino, and using a slang term to suggest he was facing execution before pepper-spraying him and knocking him to the ground. The video led to widespread outrage when it surfaced months later, after Nazario sued the two officers.
A judge on Thursday heard arguments in the state’s lawsuit before denying an attempt from the town to have the case dismissed, TV station WVEC reported.
“We are pleased with the Court’s ruling today and have no further comment,” Victoria LaCivita, a spokesperson for Miyares, said in a statement to The Associated Press.
While the lawsuit was initially filed in the waning days of Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring’s term, Miyares — a Republican who took office in January — has continued to pursue it.
Miyares filed an amended complaint in August that substantially revised the claims made in the case. The lawsuit alleges the town’s police department “has engaged in a pattern or practice of conduct” that has deprived individuals of their rights, privileges or immunities under the First, Fourth and Fourteenth amendments to the U.S. Constitution. It also says the department policed in a way that unlawfully discriminated on the basis of race, color or national origin.
In court documents, the town has said the state’s lawsuit refers only to one incident, Nazario’s traffic stop, and doesn’t establish that the town engaged in a pattern or practice of conduct that deprived individuals of their rights.
Attorneys for the town did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment on Thursday’s ruling.
Isle of Wight NAACP members told the TV station they were pleased to see Miyares push forward with the case.
“It is good to know that it is not about parties,” said Valerie Butler, president of the Isle of Wight NAACP.