ATLANTIC CITY –
The Atlantic City Police Department is facing a lawsuit from a 20-year-old Linwood man and his family, who claim officers used excessive force when arresting him.David Connor Castellani was allegedly kicked out of the Tropicana Casino back on June 15th for reasons unknown – but it’s what happened after he was kicked out of the casino that has some Atlantic City police officers facing charges.
The family’s lawyer provided NBC40 with surveillance video of the incident in question and said, “Deadly force, not just excessive force but deadly force. This dog could have killed him.”
During David Connor Castellani’s early morning arrest, he can clearly be seen on casino surveillance video exchanging words with police, before a scuffle takes place as they arrest him. The Castellani family says the officers with the Atlantic City Police Department used excessive force during the arrest, which put their son in the hospital for 4 days, and are now seeking justice.
David Castellani Sr. said, “We are also seeking to prevent this from happening to other people in the future and we are also seeking to be a voice for individuals who this has happened to in the past that have not had a voice.”
During the arrest, Officer Sterling Wheaten and his K-9 partner arrive on scene to assist in the arrest; allegedly causing severe injuries to Castellani.
The family’s lawyer says this isn’t the first time the officer’s actions have come under fire. Jennifer Bonjean, attorney for the Castellani family, said, “There are 5 pending civil suits against Sterling Wheaten as we sit here today.”
Wheaten’s lawyer, Tracy Riley, could not comment on the Castellani case specifically, but did say, “I really couldn’t comment except to say, any case I have had with Officer Wheaten, it is either ongoing or it has been dismissed.”
On the night of the arrest, Castellani was charged with aggravated assault on an officer, attempt to commit harm to a police dog, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest.
The family says pending the outcome of the investigation, they expect the charges to be dropped, but they’re also seeking monetary damages and changes in how officers police the city.
Bonjean told NBC40, “I think the canine units should be removed from the streets altogether.”
It’s something that has happened in the past. Back in August of 2009, Atlantic City Mayor, Lorenzo Langford pulled the city’s K-9 units off the streets for one year after residents complained of mis-use. Langford denied our request for comment about their decision to bring the dogs back onto the force, or about this latest incident.
We also reached out to the Atlantic City Police Department, where officials there also refused to comment, except to say an Internal Affairs investigation into the matter is underway.