Lawsuit: Cop pulled over driver for TikTok livestream--and shared driver's ID

Lawsuit: Cop pulled over driver for TikTok livestream--and shared driver's ID
Mar 2023

A Dallas County Sheriff's Department deputy, Francisco Castillo, was briefly suspended after livestreaming a traffic stop, allegedly just to gain TikTok clout, in 2021. Now, the Texas motorist that he pulled over, Torry Osby, is suing, saying that the deputy exposed Osby to risks of identity theft and break-ins at his home by flashing Osby's driver's license and sharing his personal information to more than 100 followers tuned into Castillo's livestream.

Osby's lawyer, James P. Roberts, told Ars that it's unlikely that their client was the only victim of Castillo's alleged privacy-invading social media abuse. The complaint documents a seeming pattern of Castillo sharing videos while on duty that seemed to get more engagement than his other videos, making it appear likely to Osby's lawyers that Castillo was increasingly motivated to create videos of his police activity in hopes of boosting his likes and followers.

"The deputy's actions are deeply concerning given the number of other on-duty videos he has deleted from his TikTok account," Roberts told Ars. "Through the course of this lawsuit, we will undoubtedly uncover other instances of livestreamed interactions with citizens between this deputy and others."

As of this writing, Castillo's TikTok account, "CycoCisco," is still active, with 17,500 followers. Ars confirmed that any videos documenting his law enforcement activity seem to have been deleted.

Dallas County Sheriff's Department did not immediately respond to Ars' request for comment but issued a statement reported by Dallas News. The department has confirmed that Castillo was suspended for two days without pay for violating the department's social media policy but remains employed by the department today. No further comments were made because the litigation is ongoing.

Osby, whose suit also names Dallas County as a defendant, has asked for a jury trial, seeking monetary relief for suffering mental and emotional anguish from the "flagrant invasion of his privacy."

TikTok declined to comment on this specific account. A spokesperson pointed Ars to TikTok's community guidelines, which prohibit sharing personally identifiable information, because TikTok acknowledges that such harassment "can cause serious emotional distress and other offline harm."

Osby remains "terrified" after the TikTok stream

According to Osby's complaint, the Tarrant County resident was driving to his shift at Walmart when Castillo pulled him over for allegedly speeding. Osby was surprised by the traffic stop because he claimed he was driving with cruise control on and was not speeding, but he simply continued on with his drive after Castillo let him go with just a verbal warning.

Approximately 20 minutes later, Osby found out that Castillo had livestreamed the traffic stop when Internet user "Stanley Sensational" reached out to Osby on Facebook. "Stanley" told Osby that he had found him on Facebook using the information Castillo shared on Osby's driver's license.

"Stanley" then shared a screenshot of Castillo's TikTok stream, which was posted under Castillo's account with the username "CycoCisco." That's when Osby learned that more than 100 of Castillo's followers had seen the stream and thus had access to personally identifying information, including Osby's home address, date of birth, and driver's license number.

Osby's lawyers have alleged that Castillo knew that Osby wasn't speeding at the time of the traffic stop and that Castillo only pulled Osby over to make this video and spike the cop's TikTok engagement. This allegation seemed to be backed up by an account from "Stanley," who told Osby that on the livestream, Castillo said that he made the video just to show his followers what he does during a traffic stop.

After Osby saw the TikTok, he notified the sheriff's department, which launched an investigation through its internal affairs department, resulting in Castillo's brief suspension.

Since "Stanley" was able to track Osby down on Facebook, the whole experience has made Osby "terrified" that other people who saw the TikTok could use the information to track him down or steal his identity, his complaint alleges. Osby was so concerned about break-ins at his home that he installed cameras for extra security.

Among the laws that Osby alleges that Castillo broke by livestreaming the traffic stop are Osby's constitutional rights protecting against government exposure of citizens' private information and illegal searches and seizures. The experience also led Osby to distrust the sheriff's department, because his complaint said that "no reasonable officer would believe that live-streaming a police/citizen encounter on TikTok would be appropriate or necessary for the pursuit of justice, protection of life, or performance of their law enforcement duties."

"This was not only a violation of Mr. Osby's right to privacy but also undermines the confidence the people of Dallas County have in the law enforcement agency responsible for protecting them," Roberts told Ars.