A NJ cop has been taken into federal custody for his role in a June 2013 arrest that left a Linwood man with 200 stitches after a brutal attack by the officer’s K-9. The Atlantic City cop, Sterling Wheaten, was arrested Thursday by federal authorities. BreakingAC first broke the news of the 11-year-veteran’s arrest.
A jury found that Wheaten was guilty of using excessive force during the arrest but he is officially being charged with one count of violating an individual’s civil rights and one count of falsifying a record for submitting a false police report about the assault. The indictment further stated that the NJ cop did not order his dog to heel but rather continue to attack the subdued Linwood man.
The K-9 named Hagan, bit the man’s exposed chest without warning. The man reacted by pushing the dog off and rolling over only to be bitten in the back of the neck by Hagan. Wheaten ordered the dog to maintain its hold on the man.
The NJ cop appeared in federal court Thursday and was later released on $50,000 unsecured bond. Wheaton’s attorney expressed his disappointment in the charges claiming the disgraced cop was only doing his job.
“It’s most unfortunate,” Lou Barbone, Wheaten’s attorney, told BreakingAC. “Sterling’s done nothing but serve his community for the past 10 years.”
“Sterling Wheaten is a family man who has served his community with pride and honor his entire career. We support him and are confident the facts will see him cleared of these charges,” said Patrick Colligan, the president of the New Jersey State Police Benevolent Association.
The victim, David Castellani, was leaving the Tropicana at 3am when he approached a group of cops. According to a lawsuit filed by Castellani against the city, the 20-year-old was asking officers for help getting to the other side of the hotel. The request for assistance quickly escalated into something more as the viral video shows Castellani tackled to the ground by four cops and beaten as they order him to “stop resisting.”
After Castellani is subdued with one hand in cuffs, the NJ cop appears with his K-9 Hagan. Wheaten releases Hagan and he proceeds to maul Castellani’s head, neck, and chest. The other officers including Wheaten, continued to punch and kick Castellani.
Despite the assault by the officers under the color of law, Castellani is arrested and charged with aggravated assault on a police officer and resisting arrest. The charges are cleared after his participation in a pretrial intervention program.
Federal authorities charge that Wheaton submitted “false and fraudulent police reports,” including that Castellani was “fighting my K-9 partner” and that he had “violently assaulted uniformed law enforcement officer[s] with hands and fists.”
Wheaton has a history and pattern of official abuse. He has had 23 excessive force complaints against him. None was ever deemed credible nor was he ever disciplined, according to court documents. They all lacked the video evidence to corroborate the claims.
When he applied for one of three open K-9 positions in 2012, Wheaten received the prestigious position despite having the highest number of internal affairs complaints against him of the 24 applicants, according to court documents.