SOUTH GATE (CNS) - A Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy has been charged with murder and other counts stemming from a high-speed, off-duty crash in South Gate that left a 12-year-old boy dead, Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón announced Wednesday.
Ricardo Castro, 28, is set to be arraigned March 23 on one count each of murder, vehicular manslaughter and reckless driving causing great bodily injury in connection with the Nov. 3, 2021, crash.
The boy, Isaiah Suarez Rodriguez, died as a result of the collision. The boy's older sister, Alexa, was injured, along with Castro and his passenger, according to the District Attorney's Office.
An investigation showed that the off-duty deputy may have been traveling at speeds nearing 95 mph in a 25 mph school zone as he approached the busy intersection of Firestone Boulevard and San Juan Avenue, where the boy's sister was waiting to make a left turn at about 3:55 p.m. that afternoon, the county's top prosecutor said at a news conference in South Gate.
"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."
Castro's driving history revealed that he has been involved in "multiple collisions" and received several traffic tickets, including for speeding, the district attorney said.
"Mr. Castro was also involved as a passenger in a fatal traffic collision just three months prior to this fatal collision," Gascón said.
The district attorney noted that Castro 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 have never happened."
South Gate Police Chief Darren Arakawa said the boy was an "innocent child" who "didn't stand a chance in that crash."
The police chief said the off-duty deputy was driving his Ford pick-up truck at an "unsafe speed far beyond the speed limit" when he broadsided the side of the Mercedes-Benz in which the boy was riding as his sister was negotiating a left turn.
"Despite the valiant efforts of L.A. County firefighters and medical staff at Long Beach Memorial Hospital, Isaiah did not survive this horrific event," the police chief said.
"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."
In an emotional statement, the boy's mother said, "First of all, I want to say that I love my son. I love you, Isaiah, and I miss you every single day."
She said the boy -- who had decided three days earlier to be baptized - - was out that afternoon to get a ruler for a classmate whose ruler had been taken away while being bullied.
The victim's mother, Betsabe Suarez, said the family is "completely broken" by his loss, and said she is thankful that the crash was not brushed "under the rug."
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the case against Castro, which was filed Tuesday.
Castro was arrested at 5:14 p.m. 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 in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom.
Castro could face a potential 25-year-to-life prison term if convicted as charged, the district attorney said.
He is the second Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy to be charged with murder and reckless driving in just under two years in connection with a deadly high-speed crash while off-duty.
Daniel Manuel Auner, now 25, was charged in May 2021 with a crash in Torrance that killed one of his passengers, 23-year-old Ashley Wells, and seriously injured two other people in his Dodge Charger. He is awaiting trial.