OAG: Shooting in hostage drama was justified

Gordon Castro likely shot girlfriend

An investigation into police officers shooting dead Gordon A. Castro and his girlfriend after a 38-hour-long hostage drama in San Antonio last March has concluded that it was justified.

In his report to Attorney General Edward Manibusan last Thursday, chief prosecutor John Bradley said that given the entirety of available information, especially under the difficult and sudden circumstances created by Castro, the officers’ use of deadly force was immediately necessary to execute an arrest.

Bradley said the officers were authorized by law to exercise deadly force by firing their weapons.

Manibusan assigned Bradley, assisted by the AG Investigation Division, to independently review the circumstances surrounding the Department of Public Safety officers’ use of deadly force.

In his findings, Bradley said the incident happened as the officers were executing an arrest warrant on Castro and that he fired at the officers to stop them from arresting him. Upon the officers entering the bedroom, Castro again failed to surrender and immediately began firing a handgun at the officers. The chief prosecutor said the circumstances meet the conditions required by law for the officers to use deadly force to make an arrest.

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

Bradley said that, 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.

Dr. Philip Dauterman, a pathologist at the Commonwealth Health Center, later performed an autopsy on Castro and his girlfriend, then-32-year-old Kisha Lyn M. King, on March 24, 2020.

Dauterman identified four gunshot wounds on Castro’s body—in the head, chest, stomach, and between the chest and stomach. Dauterman concluded that it was the injuries to the head and heart that killed Castro. Bradley said the gunshots causing those injuries came from the officers.

At this point, Bradley said, there is insufficient information to identify the specific officer responsible for each gunshot.

As for King, Dauterman identified three gunshot wounds on her body—in the chest, left arm, and left pelvis. Dauterman concluded that it was the chest wound that killed King.

Bradley said King’s chest wound showed signs of soot and gunpowder burns, resulting from the firearm either being in contact with or being very near her body. In addition, Bradley said, 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,” he said.

At this point, Bradley said, there is insufficient information available to identify the source of the other two shots.

However, the chief prosecutor said, Dauterman concluded that those two wounds did not kill King.

Bradley said a review of the facts shows 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,” he said.

In this case, Bradley said, there are facts supporting a legal defense of use of force in making arrest, rendering the homicide justified by law.

As to the gun used by Castro, Bradley found out that it was a government-issued 9mm handgun owned by Department of Corrections officer Eloy Cruz, who had reported that his gun was missing last Feb. 26.

Bradley said a subsequent investigation revealed that Castro gained possession of that firearm and that further investigation as to how Castro gained possession of that gun is ongoing.

He withheld details from his report about the gun “to avoid interfering with any ongoing investigation.”

Bradley said the incident started on March 10, 2020, when the CNMI Drug Enforcement Task Force obtained a warrant for the arrest of Castro based upon information that a day before (March 9), Castro had repeatedly discharged a 9mm handgun at an occupied vehicle, shattering a window in the vehicle.

Bradley said officers attempted to arrest Castro when he was located on the afternoon of March 10 in a vehicle. However, Bradley said, Castro refused to unlock the vehicle and, after a DETF officer broke the right rear window, Castro repeatedly shot at the officers. Bradley said that Castro shouted in Chamorro, daring the officers to shoot him and refusing repeated orders to surrender.

Officers could see King was in the vehicle and crying.

After substantial time went by without surrendering to officers, Castro got off the car and escaped on foot, taking King with him. Castro held a handgun to the head of King, who was crying and begging for him to stop, walked to his family’s home in San Antonio, and entered a second story bedroom with King.

Throughout the escape and kidnapping, Castro repeatedly shot at officers. Throughout the day of March 11, Castro repeatedly discharged his handgun at officers. On March 12 at about 3am, 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 planned to arrest Castro by having the point person, who would use a ballistic shield, tackle and apprehend Castro and secure his gun without any shots being fired. The officers were all wearing bullet-proof vests.

When one officer turned on the lights on his shield as he entered the room, he saw 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 King. His right hand held a handgun.

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

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

One officer fired two shots at Castro with his handgun, the second officer fired a single shot at Castro, the third officer fired three shots, and the fourth officer fired three shots at Castro. The fifth officer did not enter the room or fire his weapon.

Bradley said the entire shooting occurred within a matter of seconds.

Bradley said the officers observed Castro initiate gunfire by discharging his handgun several times, shooting at one officer and then firing his gun in the direction of the other officers.

The chief prosecutor said one officer saw Castro shoot King in the chest.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com
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