LASD deputy charged in South Gate crash that killed 12-year-old boy

Charges have been filed against a LA County sheriff’s deputy involved in a crash that led to the death of 12-year-old Isaiah Rodriguez in 2021. 

Deputy Ricardo Castro is charged with one count of murder, one count of manslaughter, and one count of reckless driving with an enhancement for grave bodily injury, Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón announced during a press conference Wednesday.

The first three counts are for the death of Rodriguez, while the two enhancements are for the two surviving victims of the crash - Rodriguez's older sister and Castro's passenger.

RELATED: 12-year-old boy killed in crash involving off-duty LA County deputy

Investigators said surveillance footage shows the violent crash happened at the intersection of Firestone Boulevard and San Juan Avenue on. Nov. 3, 2021 just before 4 p.m. 

Castro, who was off-duty at the time of the crash, may have been traveling at speeds nearing 95 mph in a 25 mph school zone when he hit the Mercedes carrying Rodriguez and his sister Alexa at the intersection, according to an investigation. The brother and sister were waiting to turn left onto San Juan from Firestone when they were hit by Castro.

The speed limit on the street is typically 35 mph but is reduced to 25 mph when school children are present.

"Driving at 95 miles per hour was nearly quadruple the speed limit when school children are present ...," the district attorney told reporters, adding that it shows a "conscious disregard for those children's lives."

Llrena Lopez, who works at the corner taco shop, told FOX 11 she saw the truck fly and land upside down. She then quickly called 911.

After the crash, people from the car wash next door rushed over to help to free the victims from both vehicles. 

All the victims were rushed to the hospital, where Rodriguez later died. 

According to Gascón, Castro's driving record shows he was involved in multiple collisions and received several traffic tickets for speeding. He was also involved as a passenger in a fatal traffic collision just three months prior to this crash. 

The district attorney noted that Castro had received rigorous training through his work as a sheriff's deputy and had significant personal and professional knowledge about the dangers of driving at an excessive speed.

"Mr. Castro's recklessness ended the life of a boy with an entire future ahead of him and destroyed a family," Gascón said. "This tragedy was preventable and should never have happened."

If convicted, Castro faces 25 years to life in prison.

"This was a preventable incident clearly in the hands of Mr. Castro," said South Gate Police Chief Darren Arakawa. "Isaiah was an innocent child. He didn't stand a chance in that crash."

"I want to emphasize that this was a preventable incident that was clearly in the hands of Mr. Castro, and that cannot be understated. At the time of the collision, the street was heavily populated with motorists and pedestrians and occurred during a time period while school children were still present," he added.

Rodriguez's mother, Betsabe Suarez, was present during the press conference and fought back tears as she remembered her son as "very thoughtful, caring, and funny."

"This should have never happened," she said.

The two siblings were headed to the store to buy a ruler for one of his classmates who was being bullied, Suarez said.

"My son didn't deserve this he was only 12. I had to have his birthday without him… holidays without him… I'm never gonna see him graduate… go to college… get married… and there's no words that could describe the full essence of who he was, and nothing could ever replace him," she said.

"It was an honor to have you as my son."

Castro was arrested Tuesday by South Gate police and has remained jailed since then in lieu of just over $2 million bail, according to jail records. 

A bail review hearing is set for next Wednesday. He will be arraigned March 23.