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Deputy Likely Drove Nearly 95 MPH in School Zone When He Killed Boy, 12, DA Says

An off-duty Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy may have been driving at speeds near 95 mph when he allegedly caused a crash that killed a 12-year-old boy in South Gate, authorities said Wednesday while announcing charges.

Deputy Ricardo Castro, 28, was driving his pickup nearly four times the 25 mph speed limit in a school zone when he broadsided the sedan Isaiah Suarez Rodriguez was riding in, Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón said, describing the November 2021 crash.

“Mr. Castro’s recklessness ended the life of a boy with an entire future ahead of him and destroyed a family. The investigation provided evidence that Mr. Castro, as a deputy sheriff, had significant personal and professional knowledge – above the level of an ordinary driver – about the specific dangers of driving, particularly at excessive speed,” Gascón said at a news conference alongside Isaiah’s family.

The crash happened around 3:55 p.m. as Isaiah’s older sister was making a left-hand turn at the intersection of Firestone Boulevard and San Juan Avenue. Castro’s pickup struck the side where Isaiah was sitting, launching the car east of the intersection and causing Castro’s vehicle to roll over, South Gate Police Department Chief Darren Arakawa said.

“Isaiah was an innocent child. He didn’t stand a chance in that crash,” Arakawa said. His department investigated the crash, while the DA’s office reviewed the investigation before filing charges.

Bystanders tried to help, but Isaiah later died at a hospital. His sister and Castro’s adult female passenger were seriously injured, Gascón said, adding that the speed at which Castro was driving, combined with the fact that the crash happened at a time when many children were present, showed the deputy had disregard for children’s lives.

The DA noted that Castro had previously been involved in multiple collisions and received multiple tickets, including for speeding. Additionally, he was a passenger in a fatal crash just three months before the crash that killed Isaiah, Gascón said.

Both Gascón and Arakawa said law enforcement officers like Castro, whether on or off-duty, should be setting an example to the public.

“This tragedy was preventable and should have never happened. We will hold anyone who displays this level of recklessness and disregard for human life accountable,” Gascón said.

Castro is charged with murder, manslaughter and reckless driving with a great bodily injury enhancement for the two women who survived. He faces up to 25 years to life in prison if convicted.

The LASD told NBC4 that Castro had been receiving pay but was removed from field duty since the crash. However, following the felony charges against him, he was relieved of duty without pay.

“What we can say is, Sheriff Robert Luna expects all members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to always hold themselves to the highest ethical and professional standards,” the LASD said in a written statement. “Criminal misconduct will not be tolerated and Department members who allegedly violate the law will be held accountable.”

Arakawa said he is confident that the “overwhelming” and “strong” evidence his department gathered will hold up in court.

Gascón said there was no undue influence that slowed the roughly 16-month investigation, noting that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department cooperated and that cases involving law enforcement officers carry “an extra level of investigative process.” Isaiah’s mother, Betsabe Suarez, thanked authorities “because they didn’t brush this under the rug.”

“My son was brave, he was very thoughtful, caring, funny. He believed in God. He made a decision to get baptized because he said he wanted to be a new man, and three days later he passed away,” Suarez said through tears.

The reason Isaiah was out at the time of the crash was because he wanted to go buy a ruler for a girl who was being bullied at school, she said.

“I’m proud of him. Even though he was 12, he showed us a lot. He was full of grace and we are completely broken,” Suarez said.

Source: NBC Los Angeles

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