Pima County Chief Deputy to sue Mercedes for $15m after SUV’s auto-close door cut off his thumb

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Catching the bad guys won’t be as easy for Pima County Chief Deputy Richard Kastigar after a defective auto-close feature in the door of his lux Mercedes SUV sliced off his thumb. 

The Arizona law man, 66, who was the chief investigator in the shooting of then-Congresswoman Gabby Giffords in 2011, had just returned home from shopping at Costco with his wife on October 8 when he was disfigured by the 2020 GLE 450 SUV.

His wife, Denise, went into the house and when Kastigar put his right hand on the door to push it closed, he instead watched in horror as it trimmed off the top knuckle of his thumb like it was bratwurst. 

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‘I watched it literally be sliced off. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,’ Kastigar said. ‘It was spurting blood all over the place.’ 

The nub was still in the car doorjamb when paramedics responded, he said. 

Kastigar filed a $15 million federal lawsuit this month against the German car manufacturer for not fixing the bug. 

The ‘automatic soft-close’ door, one of the bells and whistles found on Benzes, Jaguars, BMWs and now Teslas, was designed to keep loud slamming to a minimum. A motor takes over and seals the door the last quarter of an inch after the passenger has already started shutting it. 

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But there are a growing number of drivers from around the world who have watched their digits be guillotined by the feature.  

Pima County Deputy Chief Richard Kastigar, 66, lost part of his thumb due to a defective feature in his lux Mercedes 2020 GLE 450. He's suing the car company for $15 million

Pima County Deputy Chief Richard Kastigar, 66, lost part of his thumb due to a defective feature in his lux Mercedes 2020 GLE 450. He’s suing the car company for $15 million

OUCH: The Southwestern lawman, who was the lead investigator in the shooting of then-Rep. Gabby Giffords, was returning from a trip to Costco when he was permanently disfigured

OUCH: The Southwestern lawman, who was the lead investigator in the shooting of then-Rep. Gabby Giffords, was returning from a trip to Costco when he was permanently disfigured

Kastigar hopes to sound a warning to drivers around the world about the problem with the auto-close doors found in many luxury cars

Kastigar hopes to sound a warning to drivers around the world about the problem with the auto-close doors found in many luxury cars

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The EMTs said that he went into shock. They rushed him to St. Joseph’s Hospital, which has a hand specialist on duty, but the doctor couldn’t reattach the crushed piece.

Tucson-based deputy sheriff Richard Kastigar says that he has trouble using his gun and handcuffs now that he's missing part of his hand

Tucson-based deputy sheriff Richard Kastigar says that he has trouble using his gun and handcuffs now that he’s missing part of his hand

Now, the deputy sheriff says he can’t perform the basic duties of his job like firing his gun or slapping on the handcuffs. 

‘My wife has to help me button my shirts. My signature looks different, I have trouble holding a pen,’ he told DailyMail.com. 

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Kastigar has lost feeling in his thumb.

‘I can’t unzip my pants in a smooth and easy way,’ he said. “You take for granted the things that now I can’t do.’ 

As a sworn law officer for about 40 years, Kastigar is no shrinking violet.

The 6-foot-6-inch, 250-pound chief was the lead investigator in the shooting of then-Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, which left six people dead and the representative clinging to life.

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He’s also run the patrol division, accident investigations and the SWAT team in the Tucson-based department.  

As a bit of a car nut, Kastigar said he took pains to read the Mercedes manual and leased the car with its specific features.

Kastigar, who paramedics said was in shock after the incident, took the severed digit to a hand specialist but it could not be reattached

Kastigar, who paramedics said was in shock after the incident, took the severed digit to a hand specialist but it could not be reattached

Kastigar won't let his grandchildren ride in the car with  him anymore for fear of the same fate befalling the little ones

Kastigar won’t let his grandchildren ride in the car with  him anymore for fear of the same fate befalling the little ones

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Pictured: A 2020 GLE SUV Mercedes Benz, which was the same model car that severed Kastigar's thumb

Pictured: A 2020 GLE SUV Mercedes Benz, which was the same model car that severed Kastigar’s thumb

‘I looked in my manual. There’s no warning,’ he said.

He pointed out that other automatic car features, like electric windows, moonroofs and truck lids have safety features that halt closing when an obstruction is in the way.

‘Their slogan is “The best or nothing,”‘ he said. ‘How ironic that they compromise safety. I won’t buy a Mercedes.’ 

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The law man said that he won’t allow his grandkids to ride in the vehicle for fear that something will happen to their little pointers.

‘There are a bunch of cars out there that have this feature waiting for the next unassuming individual or child to get their fingers chopped off,’ the deputy sheriff said.

‘Somebody needs to make a change to this technology and Mercedes needs to step to the plate and fix this problem.’ 

Cases of digits being cut off by the ‘soft-close’ door feature have proliferated across the globe.

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In 2011, German driver Kordula Schweinberg also lost the top of her thumb to his BMW 530d-je. 

Thorsten Poppen of Hungary had his finger crushed in his BMW X5 Oseva, causing him to lose consciousness, according to Autobild, which wrote about the issue in 2017.

Like Kastigar, pictured, other drivers say they have been maimed or disfigured by the automatic door closing feature that can be found on BMW, Jaguars, Mercedes and now Teslas

Like Kastigar, pictured, other drivers say they have been maimed or disfigured by the automatic door closing feature that can be found on BMW, Jaguars, Mercedes and now Teslas

Kordula Schweinberg shows her missing digit which was caught in the door of her BMW 530d-je in 2011

Kordula Schweinberg shows her missing digit which was caught in the door of her BMW 530d-je in 2011

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Wurst-case scenario: German car publication AutoBild tested several items, including the weiner pictured here, to show what the door of an Audi SQJ can do something soft and fleshy

Wurst-case scenario: German car publication AutoBild tested several items, including the weiner pictured here, to show what the door of an Audi SQJ can do something soft and fleshy

Thorsten Poppen, of Hungary, lost consciousness during a road trip after his finger was caught by the automatic door feature in his BMW

Thorsten Poppen, of Hungary, lost consciousness during a road trip after his finger was caught by the automatic door feature in his BMW

Lawsuits have been filed in Long Island and now Arizona by drivers who say they’ve been victimized by the feature.

Avi Cohen, the lawyer representing Kastigar and several other drivers in litigation against various car companies for the same issue, said that manufacturers have been aware of the problem since 2011, but haven’t fixed.

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‘It’s a sad situation where you have companies who have so much impact on on consumers in their daily lives and they put them in the way of such harm,’ Cohen said. 

‘The benefit doesn’t outweigh the risk of injury.’

Mercedes Benz declined to comment to DailyMail.com. 

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