Sgt. Major of the Army Michael Grinston was blasted by two U.S. military veterans over a tweet in which he praised a black second lieutenant who was pepper-sprayed and forced to the ground for repeatedly refusing orders from two Virginia police officers to exit his vehicle.
Grinston was responding to a report that surfaced earlier this week regarding a traffic stop by Windsor, Va., officers, Joe Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker of Army 2nd Lt. Caron Nazario, who is black and Latino in December.
A video clip of the encounter that went viral online shows Gutierrez yelling at Nazario who is still sitting in his vehicle after it appears he’s been pepper-sprayed. Gutierrez demands that Nazario unbuckle his seatbelt and exit his SUV before he is then taken to the ground by both officers and handcuffed.
After the incident came to light, Gutierrez, himself a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, was fired and Nazario has since filed a lawsuit against both officers.
But full versions of the encounter from both officers’ bodycams paint a much different picture, as noted by former Tuscon, Ariz., police officer Brandon Tatum, host of “The Officer Tatum” podcast. In a breakdown, Tatum noted that Nazario failed to pull over for a mile-and-a-half after officers turned on their lights to signal him to pull over because his license plates were not properly displayed, which already led them to become suspicious.
Then, over the next several minutes, tensions only heightened when Nazario refused several loud commands to show his hands to officers and exit the vehicle, leading them to draw their service weapons.
Also, Tatum juxtaposed the officers’ bodycam video with selfie video taken by Nazario himself to suggest that the Army officer was attempting to entrap the officers who were stopping him.
In praising Nazario, Grinston wrote on Twitter Monday, “Like many of you, I was concerned by the video of LT Nazario’s traffic stop in December. He represented himself and our Army well through his calm, professional response to the situation – I’m very proud of him. I cannot comment on ongoing litigation, but I’ve been assured he is receiving the support from his leadership he needs during this time. Situations like this are what I want Soldiers to discuss. This is the reality that some of our Soldiers still face. As a Leader, you should know that and be willing to have conversations about how events like this impact your teams.”
I cannot comment on ongoing litigation, but I’ve been assured he is receiving the support from his leadership he needs during this time.
— SMA Michael Grinston (@16thSMA) April 12, 2021
Situations like this are what I want Soldiers to discuss. This is the reality that some of our Soldiers still face. As a Leader, you should know that and be willing to have conversations about how events like this impact your teams.
— SMA Michael Grinston (@16thSMA) April 12, 2021
In an interview Thursday with Newsmax TV’s Greg Kelly, Black Voices for Trump Executive Director Harrison Floyd, a Marine vet, and Jonathan Gilliam, author of “Sheep No More” and a Navy SEAL and police vet, ripped Grinston for his support of an Army officer who appears to have blatantly disregarded lawful civilian authorities.
“I think the situation demonstrates a growing problem within our society that is even being further perpetuated by the Biden administration, Congress, and local governments where propelling false narratives and rewarding bad behavior is becoming the norm,” Floyd began.
“Unfortunately, this is now a national security matter because it’s having a direct impact on troop readiness and a commander’s ability to lead troops effectively,” he added.
“It’s very insulting to me, personally, having served in the military, and having interacted with people when I was in law enforcement,” Gilliam said in response to another clip of the encounter, adding that as a police officer in Arkansas he frequently interacted with military personnel whose “behavior was above and beyond.”
“That’s what’s pushed forward by the military. But in this case, from the very beginning when [Nazario] started videotaping himself…these were the actions of an activist, not of an officer in the United States Army,” Floyd continued. “For the sergeant major to come out and back him, I mean, we know that guy’s an activist, it’s mind-boggling.”
Floyd went on to say that both Nazario’s and Grinston’s actions and statements set horrible examples for lower enlisted personnel throughout the Army.
“With everything going on in society, I think that it’s starting to become a trend, it’s becoming a norm,” he said. “You’re rewarding bad behavior, that’s what the sergeant major did.”
Regarding Nazario, “I personally think his actions were inexcusable,” Floyd added. “His actions were unbecoming of an officer, it impacted his troop readiness, the ability for him to troops.
“If he gave soldiers under his command lawful orders and they failed to comply, they would be disciplined…maybe a court-martial,” Floyd noted further. “He brought discredit to himself, the Army, and our armed forces.”