A police officer in Austin, Texas was “indefinitely suspended” after accusing an Asian man of spreading COVID-19.
Daniel Castelline, who was relieved from duty in early November, made his remark in a text conversation with two other former officers between March 12-23, according to a disciplinary memo published online.
In their exchange, Castelline suggested that an Asian man, whom he believed to be homeless, would infect them with the coronavirus.
“We’re definitely getting corona. And it’ll be that bastard phuc pham [sic],” Castelline wrote.
One of the other officers replied using a racial slur for Asians.
“Kind of afraid of catching the corona. A lot of slants over there,” the officer wrote.
In an internal affairs interview, Castelline said that Pham lives in the area of Lamar and Kramer and frequents a shopping center with several Asian restaurants, where he “gets called all the time — or called in on for criminal trespass.”
Castelline claimed that some of the restaurants feed Pham, but “he also sometimes will relieve himself in his pants.”
The officer acknowledged that it was wrong to call Pham “bastard,” but argued it was merely coincidental that the “gentleman” he had associated with having the coronavirus was Asian. He also repeatedly blamed the other officer for calling Asian people “slants.”
Castelline furthered his defense by claiming that he was off-duty for the most part of the conversation. He argued that the exchange was meant to be private, and thus, does not violate general orders and civil service rules.
Austin Police Chief Brian Manley rejected Castelline’s defense and placed him on indefinite suspension effective Nov. 5.
“While I agree with Officer Castelline’s expressed dismay in regard to (the other officer’s) behavior, I find his blame and purported dismay to be disingenuous, particularly since he prompted the thread, made jokes within the thread, revived the thread, failed to report the thread, and attested that the comments made in the thread were acceptable because they were intended to be private in nature,” Manley wrote.
The memo also exposed comments within the exchange that mocked the African American community, which appeared days later.
Manley added, “Officer Castelline’s failure to accept full responsibility, the discredit that he has brought to APD, and the harm that his thread will cause in the trust and faith of APD, particularly in the eyes of persons experiencing homeless, Asian-Americans, African-Americans, and criminal justice communities, are other factors that I weighed heavily in my decision.”
In April, the Austin City Council passed a resolution that condemned racism against Asian Americans.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler expressed support for Castelline’s indefinite suspension in a statement last Wednesday.
“This is the type of behavior and bias we are working hard to eliminate,” Adler said, according to American-Statesman. “The Austin Police Department does not condone these kinds of comments, and I understand the department took appropriate steps to terminate the officer’s employment.”
Feature Image of Austin Police Chief Brian Manley via Getty