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March 15, 2007 - Victoria Advocate (TX)

Officer Won't Be Charged In [Teen's] Killing

By Barry Halvorson, Victoria Advocate

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

WHARTON - A blood trail leading to a knife, testimony from an expert in the use of force and a Texas Ranger led a Wharton County grand jury Wednesday to decline to indict a Wharton police detective in the killing of a 17-year-old during the service of a narcotics search warrant.

Police Detective Sgt. Don Falks shot to death 17-year-old Daniel Castillo Jr. on Feb. 13 in Castillo's bedroom.

On Wednesday, District Attorney Josh McCown said the grand jury found there was insufficient evidence to charge Falks with a crime. Further, he said, the grand jury felt the evidence proved the shooting was justified.

McCown took precautions before the grand jury session, seating them at the Wharton County Sheriff's Office instead of the courthouse annex building.

"We wanted to make sure (the jurors) were brought in without being harassed by anybody. There have also been potential death threats made against Falks, but they were unspecified."

Castillo's family wasn't threatening anyone, but even before the decision was announced they were promising to have Falks kicked off the force and to go after McCown at the ballot box.

"I don't see (Falks) coming back to work for very long," said Gloria Castillo, the victim's aunt. "We're going to run him out of this community. If he goes to another one, we'll make sure they know his history. He's not going to get away with this."

Another of the victim's aunts, Lydia Garza, said she was personally disappointed and felt the DA got the results he was seeking.

"It is exactly want he wanted to happen," she said. "All of the officials in this case were together on it and as a people, we aren't going to have control or get justice until we vote some of these people out of office. This is an old-time community that is set in its ways. The only way we are going to change things and get justice is to vote and to keep our kids in school and get them educated so they will be the next ones to hold office."

After the decision was made public, the family called the investigation a cover-up and said evidence was manipulated.

McCown said he stands by the integrity of the work done.

"I'm confident in the investigation," he said. "The reputation of the Texas Rangers is impeccable. (The critics) wouldn't have been satisfied with anyone investigating this particular case. Most of their statements haven't been based on the facts. Who did they want to investigate it? LULAC?"

In discussing Wednesday's proceedings, McCown said that four witnesses appeared before the grand jury. That list included Angela Castillo, the sister of the victim; Falks; Texas Ranger David Maxwell; and Training Academy Commander Albert Rodriguez of the Department of Public Safety, an expert in the use of force.

McCown said among the most significant pieces of evidence was a knife recovered in a closet near the body of the victim. DNA and trace fiber evidence indicated it belonged to the victim.

"The knife also was of a size that it could fit underneath the door," he said. "The evidence in this case showed he had the knife at the time of the shooting and it slid underneath the door. Blood trail followed the same pattern. The lab processed the knife for DNA and it was consistent with the deceased and excluded the officer. The lab also found trace evidence on the knife - fibers - matching the jeans and sweatshirt the deceased was wearing."

McCown also described how he thinks the shooting went down. He said the victim hit Falks in the nose and was prepared to attack Falks before the shooting took place, disputing family statements that the teen was asleep or just waking up with the shooting took place.

"He was awake when officer went into the room," he said. "He went into a defensive posture and then an offensive posture. He was not asleep or just waking up when the officer entered the room. Officer Falks, in his statement, said (Castillo) reach into the waist of his pants and pulled a black object from his waistband." Falks testified the item slid across the floor and he didn't see it after that. "He assumed it was actually a gun," McCown said.

While McCown said this put the criminal investigation to an end, but he knows of a lawsuit that was filed in federal court. He didn't elaborate. He said also there are drug charges still to be followed up on, as well as two instances of arson that he said have since been determined to be in retaliation for the shooting.

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