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Report: Handgun used by Gordon Castro owned by Corrections officer

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THE handgun used by Gordon Castro in the hostage-taking incident in March belonged to Department of Corrections Officer Eloy Cruz who reported that his gun was missing Feb. 26, Chief Prosecutor John Bradley said in a six-page memorandum/report to Attorney General Edward Manibusan.

The report, which did not mention if Castro was related to the Corrections officer, details the findings of Bradley’s independent review and evaluation of the actions taken by the Department of Public Safety, which used deadly force in attempting to arrest Castro, 31.

Castro died after local and federal law enforcement agents breached the house where he had barricaded himself with his 32-year-old girlfriend, Kisha Lyn M. King, as hostage on the early morning hours of March 12, 2020. King also died in the incident.

Mediator

Gordon Castro’s sister, Stephanie Castro Camacho, who was asked by law enforcers to mediate between them and her brother told Variety on Tuesday that she was not satisfied with Bradley’s report, which stated that the officers were legally justified in using deadly force.

Camacho said, knowing her brother, she does not believe that “Gordon will shoot Keisha.”

Camacho added, “I think Keisha was standing when she was shot, as her slippers were under the couch.  It is just my belief that my brother Gordon was sleeping when he was shot.”

Camacho said DPS “should also investigate how the handgun ended up with my brother — the report withheld the information.”

Camacho neither confirmed nor denied if their family will sue DPS for the death of her brother, but she said they are gathering their information.

Bradley stated that Corrections Officer Eloy Cruz on Feb. 26 reported that his government-issued 9mm handgun was missing. A subsequent investigation revealed that Castro gained possession of that firearm, Bradley added.

He said further investigation related to the circumstances of how Castro gained possession of that firearm is ongoing.

“To avoid interfering with any ongoing investigation, those details are withheld from this report,” he said.

‘Shoot me’

On March 10, 2020, his report said, the CNMI Drug Enforcement Task Force or DETF obtained a warrant for the arrest of Castro based upon information that on March 9, Castro had repeatedly discharged a 9mm handgun at an occupied vehicle, shattering a window in the vehicle.

Officers attempted to arrest Castro when he was located on the afternoon of March 10 in a vehicle.

However, Castro refused to unlock the vehicle, and after a DETF officer broke the right rear window, Castro discharged the handgun repeatedly at the officers, the report stated.

It added that Castro shouted “shoot me” in Chamorro after refusing repeated orders to surrender.

Officers could see that an adult female, later identified as King, was in the vehicle and crying.

The report stated that “after substantial time went by without surrendering to officers, Castro exited the vehicle, and escaped on foot by kidnapping King.”

Castro held a handgun to the head of King, who was crying and begging for him to stop, as they walked to his family home in San Antonio. There, he entered a second story bedroom with King.

According to the report, throughout the escape and kidnapping, Castro repeatedly discharged his handgun at the officers. At one point, Castro said, “This is how you shoot.” Officers also heard King say, “Just let me go.”

On March 11, an officer tossed bags containing food, drinks, and a cell phone to the second story balcony in front of the bedroom where Castro and King were located.

Law enforcement officers and Castro’s sister repeatedly attempted to negotiate with Castro by phone through a police car public address system, the report stated.

Castro’s medication was also provided to him, it added. “Throughout the day, Castro repeatedly discharged his handgun at the officers.”

It was King who came out of the bedroom more than once to recover the bags tossed to the second floor, the report stated..

“She answered at least one phone call, communicating that she was not injured and was unwilling to leave Castro by himself,” Bradley said.

Breached

On March 12, around 3 a.m. a five-member team of DPS officers entered the bedroom in which Castro was holding King.

“There were no lights on in the bedroom as power had been disconnected from the building. The door was not locked. The team, using darkness and the element of surprise, planned to arrest Castro by having the point person, who would use a ballistic shield, tackle and apprehend Castro and secure Castro’s handgun without any shots being fired. The officers were all wearing bullet proof vests,” the report stated.

Officer Jay Charley, point person in the group, entered the room holding a ballistic shield to protect himself. His handgun was holstered, the report added.

“Upon the signal of another officer, Charley turned on the lights on his shield as he entered the room and observed Castro and King sitting on a couch against the wall to the right of the doorway. King was closest to the doorway. Castro, who appeared to be sleeping, was seated next to her. His left hand was on her shoulder. His right hand held a handgun readily observable to the officers.

“The lights seemingly startled and possibly awoke Castro, who immediately began discharging his firearm.”

At least one of Castro’s shots struck the shield, the report stated.

“Officer Charley unholstered his firearm and fired two shots from his .40 caliber handgun at Castro. Officer Davie Matagolai fired a single shot from his 9mm handgun. Sgt. John Wabol fired three shots from his 9mm handgun, [and] Officer Daniel Joab fired three shots from his .223 rifle.

“Officer Jeffrey Norita had a battering ram, but did not enter the room at that time or fire a weapon.

“The entire shooting occurred within a matter of seconds,” the report stated.

It added that “the officers observed Castro initiate gunfire by discharging his handgun several times, shooting at Charley and firing his gun in the directions of the other officers.”

Officer Wabol observed Castro also shoot King in the chest, the report stated.

Both Castro and King died of gunshot wounds, but no officer was injured, the report stated.

Crime scene

On March 12, crime scene investigators processed the bedroom for evidence, and it was secured by a crime scene tape.

However, on March 15, “when investigators returned to the scene, they observed that the family had removed everything, cleaned the bedroom, and resumed using it as residence,” the report stated.

On March 16, investigators returned to the crime scene, conducted additional investigation in the bedroom and recovered the couch from a trailer filled with trash, the report stated.

Included in Bradley’s memorandum to the AG was an autopsy report on Castro and King issued by Dr. Philip Dauterman, a pathologist of the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.

Gunshot wounds

Dr. Dauterman identified four gunshot wounds on Castro’s body, in the head, in the chest, in the stomach, and between the chest and stomach.

The pathologist concluded that the injuries to the head and heart caused Castro’s death.

The gunshots causing those injuries came from the officers, Dr. Dauterman said.

But Bradley said there is insufficient information to identify the specific officer responsible for each gunshot.

As for King, Dr. Dauterman identified three gunshot wounds on her body located in the chest, left arm, and left pelvis.

The pathologist concluded that the chest wound caused King’s death. The chest wound showed signs of soot and gunpowder burns, resulting from the firearm either in contact with or being very near her body, Dr. Dauterman said.

In addition, he noted that the track of the bullet through the body was at an angle consistent with the observed position of Castro’s handgun.

“These facts make it very likely that the gunshot to King’s chest came from Castro,” Bradley stated in his report.

“At this point, there is insufficient information available to identify the source of the two shots, but Dr. Dauterman concluded that those wounds did not cause King’s death,” Bradley added.

He said before DPS used deadly force, the officers obtained an arrest warrant from a judge; attempted to execute that warrant against Castro; negotiated with Castro to surrender; and then developed a plan for again attempting to arrest Castro.

Bradley said the officers in that team knew that the warrant alleged that Castro had committed a violent felony offense with a firearm. They also knew Castro had refused to surrender, escaped arrest, kidnapped a woman at gunpoint, and repeatedly discharged a firearm at officers for over 24 hours.

“Those circumstances confidently indicate that officers justifiably armed themselves and prepared to use deadly force if necessary, before entering the bedroom to arrest Castro.”

Reasonable

Bradley said, “Given the overwhelming evidence supporting the defense of use of force to make arrest, no further analysis is required relevant to the defense of self-defense with deadly force.”

He added, “Any reasonable trier of fact is likely to conclude that the officers were justified by the defense of use of force to make arrest.”

Bradley said a review of the facts showed that DPS officers used deadly force against Castro by firing their weapons during an attempt to arrest him on March 12, 2020, on a felony warrant for a violent crime. He said two of the shots from those officers hit Castro in the head and chest, killing him.

“Those facts support the conclusion that a homicide occurred. Such a homicide would typically be characterized as the crime of murder, absent a legal defense,” Bradley said.

But in this case, he added, “There are facts supporting a legal defense of use of force in making arrest, rendering the homicide justified by law.”

Criminal history

As a juvenile, the report stated, “Castro had a substantial criminal history and was well known by law enforcement. That history included a prosecution for the felony offense of Vehicular Homicide.”

On Oct. 26, 2016, the report stated, “Castro was convicted as an adult of Assault with a Dangerous Weapon in connection with kidnapping a girlfriend (not King) at knifepoint. In the case, the judge noted that Castro had a history of mental illness (schizophrenia) that had been treated with medication and counseling and expressed concern whether the Department of Corrections and the mental health system could provide sufficient services. Castro was sentenced to three years’ confinement, suspended, except for 284 days that had already been served in the Department of Corrections. He was placed on probation for five years. A condition of his probation required him to continue mental health treatment and counseling. Hospital and probation records indicate that regular treatment and counseling took place.”

On April 2, 2019, the report added, “Castro was charged with Trafficking of a Controlled Substance (methamphetamine), alleged to have been committed January 23, 2018. On March 6, 2020, Castro was charged with Trafficking of a Controlled Substance (methamphetamine), alleged to have been committed January 10, 2020.  During the pendency of the two drug cases and the ongoing probation for Assault with a Dangerous Weapon, the court released Castro on bond.  During the pendency of the two drugs cases and the ongoing probation for Assault with a Dangerous Weapon, the court released Castro on bond.”

 

 

November 2020 pssnewsletter

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