Throughout history, there have been countless stories of police officers abusing their power over people they prey on. For the past few years, police brutality has been a hot topic in the news, but it usually involves violence on the officers’ behalves. Much of the time, the violent police and their departments walk away with little to no repercussions. In a story coming out of Phoenix, the police got their comeuppance for a pretty much nonviolent example of police brutality. In this case, a man settled a lawsuit for beaucoup bucks after police officers forced him to eat cannabis that he had in his car.
The man in question is named Edgar Castro. In September of 2016, when he was 19-years-old, cops pulled him over for speeding around 4 AM. Officers Jason McFadden and Michael Carnicle saw a small amount of weed in Castro’s car in packaging from a medical cannabis dispensary. Not too long after, officers Kevin Harsch and Richard Pina showed up on the scene. Before leaving the scene, Harsch overheard McFadden say, “Oh, we should make him eat it.”
As the officers searched the vehicle, Castro sat handcuffed in the back of a police cruiser. When the search was over, Castro was removed from the police car and told to sit on the ground. McFadden asked Castro if he wanted to go home. Naturally, Castro said he did. According to High Times:
Defendant McFadden then told Plaintiff to eat the marijuana or he would be going to jail. Plaintiff asked Defendant Pina if he really had to eat the marijuana, to which Defendant Pina responded, “yeah! You need to eat it.” Plaintiff asked for his phone so that he could record the incident and McFadden stated that if he grabbed it he would be shot.
After initial protest, Castro ate the weed. He then asked to speak to a supervisor. Sergeant Jordan arrived he asked Officer Carnicle if they were going to book Castro for possession; they were not.
Sergeant Jordan spoke with Plaintiff. Plaintiff asked Sergeant Jordan “is it wrong for an officer to make you eat your weed?” Upon information and belief, Sergeant Jordan said, “McFadden stated that it was against the law to have weed.” Sergeant Jordan then left the scene.
The defendants towed his car and forced him to walk home. As the officers drove away, McFadden told Castro, “don’t get shot tonight.” As a result of the officers’ actions, Castro “became ill and vomited.”
Afterwards, Castro formally filed a complaint against the officers who violated him. Lieutenant Farrior was notified by Sergeant Jordan and the issue was supposed to be resolved within a week’s time. Jordan felt “uneasy about the situation” and reviewed police footage. When Lieutenant Winchester caught wind of the situation, he said the incident needed to be reported. Pina, Carnicle and McFadden resigned and Farrior was eventually demoted for “his failure to act according to standards.”
Castro named McFadden, Pina, Farrior, Carnicle and the City of Phoenix in his lawsuit. He was looking for compensatory and punitive damages against the individual defendants. In the end, he settled for $100,000 in damages. However, Castro hopes the officers suffer more for the trauma they caused him. “The officers who violated me did it because they felt like they could,” he said. “They felt their uniforms made it OK for them to be racist… and treat me like a second-class citizen… Dirty cops with records of assaulting people in the worst ways imaginable should never be hired by other departments. There should be systems in place to make sure these sick individuals never carry a gun or a badge again.”