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L.A. County deputy charged with murder in high-speed crash that killed 12-year-old boy

Family members carry a picture of Isaiah Rodriguez
Family members on Wednesday carry a picture of Isaiah Rodriguez, 12, who was killed in 2021 when an off-duty Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy crashed into the car he was riding in.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
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A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy has been arrested and charged with murder and vehicular manslaughter after an off-duty high-speed crash that killed a 12-year-old boy more than a year ago.

Ricardo Castro, 28, is accused of speeding in his pickup truck on Nov. 3, 2021, when he T-boned a car turning left at an intersection, killing Isaiah Rodriguez in that vehicle’s passenger seat and injuring the boy’s 19-year-old sister, according to authorities. Castro was off duty at the time of the crash.

Isaiah died at a Long Beach hospital, and his sister was treated for broken bones.

South Gate police took Castro into custody Tuesday evening, according to booking records. He is being held in lieu of $2.03-million bail at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility near downtown Los Angeles.

Castro was charged Tuesday with murder, vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and reckless driving.

A young woman, crying, holds a photo of smiling boy.
A family member holds a picture of Isaiah.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
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At a news conference Wednesday in front of the South Gate Police Department, a few blocks from where the fatal crash took place, L.A. County Dist. Atty. George Gascón formally announced the charges against Castro.

He called the incident a preventable tragedy.

“Mr Castro’s recklessness ended the life of a boy with an entire future ahead of him and destroyed a family,” said Gascón, standing next to two posters displaying pictures of a smiling Isaiah.

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South Gate Police Chief Darren Arakawa said the charges were the result of a 16-month investigation by his department.

“We feel confident that the overwhelming and strong evidence that was gathered justifies the charges and will speak for itself in the courtroom,” Arakawa said.

The high-speed crash at the intersection of San Juan Avenue and Firestone Boulevard was captured on surveillance video. Footage shows the car being struck, spun around and tossed by the impact.

The road is marked for 35 mph, but because it is a school zone a 25 mph speed limit would have been in place at the time of the 4 p.m. crash.

An aerial photo of wreckage of a silver car sitting partly off the street, on a median.
The wreckage of the car Isaiah Rodriguez, 12, was riding in when it was struck by a pickup truck driven by an off-duty L.A. County sheriff’s deputy in November 2021. Isaiah died at a hospital.
(KTLA-TV Channel 5)

According to law enforcement sources, Castro’s pickup reached speeds in excess of 90 mph on a city street in the moments before the deadly impact.

To get a second-degree murder conviction, L.A. County prosecutors in such a case must prove that the off-duty deputy acted with implied malice and knew driving at such excessive speed was dangerous to human life. It is the same kind of murder charge filed against Hidden Hills socialite Rebecca Grossman, who is accused of running down two boys in a Westlake Village crosswalk while going more than 70 mph.

Castro had received “rigorous” training on safe driving as a sheriff’s deputy, yet had been involved in multiple collisions and received a number of traffic tickets, including some for speeding, Gascón said Wednesday. He added that Castro had also been a passenger in a fatal crash a few months before the collision that killed Isaiah.

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Aerial television video from the day of the South Gate crash showed that the vehicle Isaiah was riding in came to a stop at least 75 feet from the point of impact.

After the crash, a good Samaritan tried to wrap Isaiah’s head with her sweater to stop the bleeding before the siblings were taken to the hospital, according to the family’s GoFundMe page. Firefighters used hydraulic “jaws of life” to pull the boy from the wreckage.

According to the GoFundMe page, Isaiah suffered “severe injuries to his head, brain and abdomen.” Despite efforts by the emergency room team at Long Beach Memorial Hospital, who worked tirelessly to save him after his heart stopped three times, Isaiah was pronounced dead at about 8:30 that night.

According to the family, the 19-year-old sister was treated at St. Francis Medical Center for a concussion, broken bones and lacerations. She was released a few days later.

A close-up, profile view of a woman with blond hair speaking to a microphone, looking emotional.
Betsabe Suarez, the mother of Isaiah Rodriguez, speaks during a news conference in South Gate on Wednesday.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Betsabe Suarez, Isaiah’s mother, said at Wednesday’s news conference that her son had been on his way that day to buy a new ruler for a girl who’d been bullied and had her own ruler taken away. She remembered him as a brave, thoughtful, caring child.

Three days before he was killed, Isaiah told her he wanted to get baptized so he could be a “new man,” she said.

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Suarez sobbed as she listed the milestones she would never get to spend with him: birthdays, graduation, send-off to college, marriage.

“My son didn’t deserve this,” she said. “He was only 12.”

In the aftermath of the collision, the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department issued a statement. “Our hearts go out those injured in the crash, as well as the family and loved ones of the deceased,” the agency said. “This case is currently being investigated by South Gate Police Department and until their investigation is completed, we are unable to offer further comment.”

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