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Connecticut officer refused sobriety tests after fatal crash

Updated September 23, 2021 - 3:55 pm

A Connecticut police officer charged in a Las Vegas DUI crash that left his colleague dead refused field sobriety tests at the scene last week, according to an arrest report.

Robert Ferraro, 34, was driving a Rolls-Royce Cullinan SUV on Friday at Spring Mountain Road and Decatur Boulevard, when he drove through the intersection at a “high rate of speed,” authorities said. Ferraro lost control of the car, striking a Ford Mustang that was preparing to turn into the roadway, four palm trees and a light pole before rolling, hitting a curb and a fire hydrant, according to Ferraro’s arrest report.

Three other man, all Connecticut police officers, and two Texas women were in the Rolls-Royce at the time of the crash, officials have said. No one was wearing seat belts, according to the arrest report.

When the car flipped onto its roof, one of the off-duty police officers was thrown from the passenger seat.

Joshua Castellano, a seven-year veteran of the New Haven Police Department, was taken to University Medical Center, where he died.

Surveillance footage obtained by police showed the Rolls-Royce speed through the intersection, striking an elevated portion of the road used for water runoff, causing its suspension to bottom out and “sending sparks flying from the undercarriage” before the crash, the report said.

“When the dust settled, the body of Josh Castellano could be seen lying on the sidewalk,” the report said.

Following the crash, an officer noted that Ferraro had “watery eyes and a strong odor of an unknown alcoholic beverage.”

Blood drawn after test refusal

Ferraro refused all standardized field sobriety tests at the scene, the report said.

Investigators obtained a search warrant, and Ferraro’s blood was drawn twice at the Clark County Detention Center. The timing of the blood draws was redacted from the arrest report released by Metro on Thursday.

Andrew Bennett, a spokesman for Nevada’s Office of Traffic Safety, said Friday that people are legally allowed to refuse field sobriety tests, but investigators have other ways to determine impairment.

“You can say no, but the investigation still proceeds,” Bennett said.

Refusing a portable blood test, also known as a Breathalyzer, can result in suspension of driving privileges, he said.

Ferraro on Thursday was released from house arrest after posting a $100,000 bail. In a court hearing, Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Suzan Baucum said Ferraro will be subject to alcohol and drug monitoring, will not be allowed to drive, and must surrender his passport.

“The prosecution and myself felt it was more appropriate that he be taken off of house arrest and allowed to go back to Connecticut,” said Gabriel Grasso, Ferraro’s defense attorney. “But he’s still on what’s known as intensive supervision, which means he has to check in once a week, calling by phone to check in.” 

Ferraro has been placed on administrative leave from the New Haven Police Department, Grasso said.

The 34-year-old was formally charged Thursday with DUI resulting in death and reckless driving resulting in death or substantial bodily harm, court records show.

Ferraro, the other passengers in the Rolls-Royce and the man driving the Ford all suffered minor injuries, the arrest report said.

Investigators searching the SUV also found a “red pill” on the passenger floorboard, the report said.

‘Academy buddies’ on Las Vegas trip

Ferraro and the other officers were in Las Vegas on vacation, Grasso told reporters after the hearing.

“They are all sort of academy buddies, and they all came together,” he said. “Some of them have been friends since high school, like Josh and Robert.”

Grasso said that Ferraro and Castellano were like “brothers,” having gone through the police academy together and serving as partners in the department. Both were patrol officers, but it was unclear if they were partners at the time of the crash.

“It is a huge, huge devastating loss that’s being felt, regardless of what ends up happening in this case,” Grasso said. “It’s a huge loss for everyone.”

A two-week hearing in the case is scheduled for Oct. 7, and a preliminary hearing is set for Jan. 27.

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter.

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