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February 16, 2007 - Victoria Advocate (TX)

Family: Wharton Teen Shot By Police Was Unarmed

More Than 100 People March in Protest of the Killing

By Barry Halvorson, Victoria Advocate

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

WHARTON - The family of the 17-year-old boy shot and killed while law enforcement officers were serving a search warrant at his home on Tuesday said Thursday he was unarmed when the incident happened.

"We want to get answers and we want justice," said Lydia Garza, who is Daniel Castillo Jr.'s aunt "He was asleep when they entered his room and he was shot in the face when he was just a few feet apart from the police officer. It is horrible what happened."

Garza, who is also serving as the family's spokesperson, said the family has contacted the FBI to ask them to look into the shooting in part because of the lack of information being provided by the Wharton County district attorney's office or the Wharton Police Department.

"We requested a police report and they said it was still under investigation so they couldn't give it to us," Garza said. "They haven't told us anything."

The LULAC has been providing support for the family. District 8 Director Rick Dovalina said the lack of available information is disturbing to him based on past experiences, which is why the group requested the FBI become involved.

"I think it is suspicious that it has taken such a long time and the DA hasn't issued a statement," Dovalina said. "In this case, they are holding tight. My experience is that when an officer is defending himself against attack, the DA will be quick to issue a statement. In this case, the family said he was shot once under the right eye. Usually, an officer is going to shoot to kill and fire four or five shots to the chest. That isn't what we are being told."

District Attorney Josh McCown and the Wharton Police Department have declined to discuss the case other than to say the investigation is ongoing. On Thursday, McCown did say drugs were found in the home but would not say what type of drugs or the quantity. He also confirmed his office had been contacted by the FBI.

The search warrant was signed by Wharton County Justice of the Peace Precinct 1 Jeanette Krenek and was based on an affidavit prepared by Tommy Johnson of the Wharton County District Attorney Task Force.

In the affidavit, Johnson wrote a confidential informant had observed a "David Castillo," identified elsewhere in the document as Danny Castillo, and another person selling crack cocaine from the home and packaging crack cocaine for sale.

Johnson said in the affidavit that surveillance of the house showed people were coming to the home, staying a short time and then leaving, which he wrote is "common with someone who is selling narcotics" based on his prior experience.

The police department has released the name of the officer involved in the shooting. Police Capt. Richard Coleman said the officer Don Falks has spent all six-years of his law enforcement career with the Wharton department.

In discussing the family's version of what happened, Garza said the police forced open the front door of the family's home at 1409 Sunset on Tuesday morning and then moved into a bedroom that was shared by the victim and his sister, Ashley Castillo, and her child.

"They heard a noise and Ashley got up and was holding her baby when they came in the room," Garza said. "The officer trained his gun on her and she said 'don't shoot my baby.' Danny woke up and was getting out of bed when the officer turned and shot him and then trained the gun back on Ashley."

To put additional pressure on the police department and DA's office, the family organized a candlelight vigil on Wednesday night and a demonstration march on Thursday afternoon that briefly passed in front of the police department at 220 S. Fulton St. and the DA's office on Milam Street.

A rosary was held Thursday night with the funeral scheduled for this morning at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church at 506 S. East Ave. The family has also announced a news conference would be held at noon today at the church.

"We're having the (Wharton County) Sheriff's Office provide the escort to the cemetery because right now we want nothing to do with the police department, Garza said. "We are expecting a lot of people to attend the funeral. The vigil and march were both peaceful and we plan to continue to bring attention to this until we get some information."

February 15, 2007 - Houston Chronicle (TX)

Dad Seeks Answers In Killing By Wharton Police

He Says His 17-Year-Old Son Was Awakened by His Sister's Cries Before Being Shot

By Armando Villafranca

WHARTON -- The father of a 17-year-old killed by a police officer who was looking for drugs at his home said the shooting was unprovoked.

Daniel Castillo Sr. said his son, Daniel Jr., was awakened by pleas from the teen's sister asking officers not to shoot her in the Tuesday morning incident, during which law enforcement agencies were executing a narcotics search warrant.

"I just want justice," the elder Castillo said Wednesday from his home in Wharton.

Officials from the agencies involved in the shooting or its investigation continued to decline comment.

The Wharton police officer who shot the teen is on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

Don Falks was hired six years ago with no prior experience in law enforcement, said Capt. David Coleman of the Wharton Police Department. Coleman would not say whether Falks previously had discharged his weapon while on duty or had been investigated under similar circumstances.

Falks was a member of the Wharton Police Department's emergency response team, which was executing a narcotics search warrant with members of the Wharton County District Attorney Narcotics Task Force and the Wharton County Sheriff's Office Star Team.

The elder Castillo said his son was awakened by the pleas of his 20-year-old sister, Ashley. When the younger Castillo turned toward Falks, he said, the officer shot him in the face.

"My son heard her say, 'Don't shoot.' He got up to see what was going on," the elder Castillo said.

The teen's sister was with her 1-year-old when Falks burst into the bedroom, the elder Castillo said. The sister declined to comment Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the state director of the League of United Latin American Citizens said Wednesday that he will ask the FBI to investigate. Rick Dovalina said he spent Wednesday with the family and officials in Wharton.

Becky Ivy, spokeswoman for the district attorney's office, said she could not comment about the investigation. Texas Ranger David Maxwell could not be reached for comment.

Daniel Castillo Sr. said no one with the district attorney's office or police department has talked to him since the shooting. Castillo said his son had no criminal record and was not selling drugs and that he fears the shooting will be ignored.

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