Another person has come forward claiming she was the victim of police brutality from an Atlantic City officer.
In only five years on the force, Officer Sterling Wheaten has already been named in half a dozen lawsuits. The latest comes from Janine Costantino, who claims Wheaten assaulted her at Caesar’s Casino last year.
“I couldn’t imagine this was actually happening,” she said.
Costantino says Wheaten arrested her brother after he got into an altercation with another patron.
“Wheaten had my brother in a headlock and his arms were limp and his legs were weak,” Costantino said. “I screamed out that it was police brutality and that I was videotaping it all.”
That’s when she claims Wheaten turned on her.
“He was running at me and he says, ‘Give me the phone you b**h,’” she said. “He grabbed my bun and he was slamming my forehead into the floor.”
Wheaten then arrested Costantino but court records show the charges against her were later dropped. Costantino says she’ll never forget what one officer told her the night of the incident.
“He’s like, ‘Oh, that’s your first mistake,’” she said. “You shouldn’t be videotaping police officers.”
Wheaten already made headlines earlier this year after video surfaced allegedly showing him releasing his K-9 on a man who was already face down on the ground. Lorenzo Langford, who was the Atlantic City mayor at that time, called the video “horrifying.”
NBC10 obtained an internal police report which shows that Atlantic City Police internal affairs investigated Wheaten 15 times between 2008 and 2010 for allegations of misconduct, some of those allegations being excessive force. Each time however, the department concluded Wheaten did nothing wrong or that there was not enough evidence to clearly prove he did something wrong. Wheaten’s attorney told us she was confident internal affairs performed complete and thorough investigations. She did not respond to the latest lawsuit however.
“I get calls every day from people who have been brutalized and terrorized by the Atlantic City Police Department,” said Jennifer Bonjean, an attorney who is representing Costantino and others who are suing Wheaten. “It’s overwhelming the pattern that I’ve been able to establish just with these limited cases I’ve been involved in. I think the prosecutor’s office is turning a blind eye to many of these allegations. They have to be seeing the same police officers that we’re seeing.”
The Atlantic City Police Department is also at the center of another lawsuit from one of their own. Sergeant Mark Benjamin sued the department after claiming he received death threats for reporting police misconduct to his superiors.
The various allegations against the Department have caught national attention. The Reverend Al Sharpton visited Atlantic City on Wednesday to attend a rally speaking out on the department’s alleged police brutality.