Officer arrested in Gilbert DUI case seeking $500,000

by Parker Leavitt and Michael Ferraresi
The Arizona Republic
Jul. 13, 2010

A Phoenix police officer accused of DUI in Gilbert is seeking $500,000 in damages from the town, claiming police there used excessive force in firing a Taser to incapacitate him before the arrest.

Phoenix Officer Seth Samuel Castillo was found on Jan. 3 "slumped over" behind the wheel of a black Jeep Commander, which was blocking an intersection in his Gilbert neighborhood, according to a police report.

It took Gilbert police several minutes to rouse Castillo. When he finally came to, he mumbled "mostly unintelligible words, some of which sounded like 'kill you,' " according to the report.

A Gilbert police officer ordered Castillo out of the vehicle and told him to put his hands on the car. Castillo reportedly dropped his arms, and the officer, fearing he might draw a weapon, shot him in the back with the Taser, according to the report.

Castillo fell to the ground, and the officer called for backup. Castillo then revealed that he is a Phoenix police officer.

Lab results showed that Castillo had a blood-alcohol content of 0.173 percent, more than twice the legal limit of 0.08 percent.

He currently faces charges of driving under the influence of alcohol and failing to obey a police officer, Gilbert prosecutor Lynn Arouh said. A pretrial conference is set for July 23 in Gilbert Municipal Court.

An internal Phoenix Police Department investigation of Castillo sustained allegations of drunken driving and conduct unbecoming for a police officer, police records show.

Castillo could face discipline ranging up to a five-day suspension, though no final action has been taken, said Phoenix police Sgt. Trent Crump, a department spokesman. Castillo previously received a minor reprimand after internal-affairs investigators probed an allegation that the officer had received several civil traffic tickets, including some while in uniform.

Castillo was assigned to a desk job during the investigation, though he recently returned to patrol in Maryvale Precinct.

On July 2, Castillo filed a notice of claim against Gilbert seeking $500,000, alleging violations of his civil rights. He claims Gilbert police used excessive force and violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guards against unreasonable search and seizure.

Castillo alleges the "egregious and extremely outrageous" actions of the Gilbert police officer have caused damage to his reputation and inflicted emotional damage, according to the claim. In the claim, he neither admitted nor denied driving drunk.

A notice of claim must be filed within 180 days of an incident and can be settled outside of court, without a lawsuit. The town does not comment on them.

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