An L.A. County deputy has been charged with several serious crimes, including murder, after he allegedly raced through a school zone at 95 mph and crashed into another vehicle, leaving one young boy dead and three people injured.
Just before 4 p.m. on November 3, 2021, 12-year-old Isaiah Rodriguez was sitting in the passenger side of an older-model Mercedes driven by his 19-year-old sister, Alexa. The two had been driving westbound on Firestone Boulevard in South Gate, California, and were making a left turn onto San Juan Avenue when a white pickup truck headed eastbound came barreling along Firestone at a high rate of speed and smashed into their Mercedes.
The crash was caught on surveillance footage (1:14):
Warning: Disturbing content
Behind the wheel of the pickup truck was off-duty deputy Ricardo Castro. He and a female passenger were allegedly driving 95 mph in the moments before the crash. Though the speed limit along Firestone is usually 35 mph, at the time of the crash, the speed limit had been reduced to 25 mph because it was then considered a school zone.
"Driving at 95 miles per hour was nearly quadruple the speed limit when schoolchildren are present," said District Attorney George Gascón.
The force of the impact caused the pickup truck to flip upside down, while the Mercedes spun around several times. As the Mercedes had been turning left, exposing the passenger side of the vehicle to coming traffic, young Isaiah took a direct hit. Witnesses at a nearby car wash managed to help free all four crash victims from their vehicles, and emergency responders quickly rushed them all to a hospital. Castro, his female companion, and Isaiah's sister Alexa all suffered injuries in the crash but ultimately survived. Sadly, little Isaiah did not.
"The deputy showed a conscious disregard for the lives and safety of the people of South Gate by recklessly speeding on a busy street," a statement from Gascón added.
On Wednesday, Castro, 28, was charged with one count of murder, one count of vehicular manslaughter, and one count of reckless driving with enhancements for grave bodily injury. He is currently in custody at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility on a bond of just over $2 million. His arraignment is scheduled for March 23, and he has "been relieved of duty without pay," a spokesman for the sheriff's office confirmed.
According to reports, Castro has a troubling history of unsafe driving habits. He has been cited for speeding on several occasions and was himself a passenger in a fatal traffic accident that occurred just three months before the crash that killed Isaiah Rodriguez.
Isaiah's mother, Betsabe Suarez, was present at the press conference to announce the charges against Castro and spoke through tears as she remembered her son. "He was full of grace," she said, noting that, just three days before he died, Isaiah had expressed a desire to be baptized. She also said that on the day he died, he had come to the aid of a classmate who had been bullied.
"My son didn't deserve this," she said. "He was only 12. I had to have his birthday without him … holidays without him. … There's no words that could describe the full essence of who he was, and nothing could ever replace him."
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