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Ex-WPD officer allegedly erased phone

Ex-Windsor Police Officer Joe Gutierrez is alleged to have erased all text messages and emails from his town-issued cell phone prior to returning it to Windsor officials.

Gutierrez was fired April 11 after video footage showing him holding a Black and Latinx Army officer at gunpoint during a traffic stop last December and pepper-spraying him went viral online.

The Smithfield Times had requested under the Freedom of Information Act on April 15 to be provided with copies of all correspondence, to include emails and text messages, sent by Gutierrez from July 2020 to date. The town acknowledged the request April 22 and requested additional time to respond, then asked for an additional 10-day extension April 28 given the number of FOIA requests from other media outlets concerning the traffic stop and the volume of communiques. Windsor Town Manager William Saunders emailed those records to the paper May 12, adding “FYI – Officer Gutierrez blanked out his phone before returning it, so those texts were lost.”

“It is absolutely not standard practice for employees to wipe their phones, as it potentially incurs the destruction of documents sooner than the Library of Virginia retention standards dictate,” Saunders said.

The Army officer, 2nd Lt. Caron Nazario, has filed a $1 million federal lawsuit against Gutierrez and Officer Daniel Crocker, who initiated the traffic stop and remains employed by the Windsor Police Department.