LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy has been charged with murder and other counts in connection with a 2021 high-speed, off-duty crash in South Gate that left a 12-year-old boy dead, prosecutors announced Wednesday.
L.A. County District Attorney George Gascón said the deputy in this case, 28-year-old Ricardo Castro, had a long history of speeding and traffic wrecks. He was a passenger in a fatal wreck just three months before this case. These were all factors that led to the murder charge.
Surveillance video caught the crash when a pickup truck plowed into a car in a busy South Gate intersection in November 2021. Twelve-year-old Isaiah Rodriguez was in the passenger seat of that car when it was hit at San Juan Avenue and Firestone Boulevard. The driver, Isaiah's then-19-year-old sister, was hospitalized with injuries.
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, where the boy's sister was waiting to make a left turn shortly before 4 p.m. that afternoon, Gascón said at a news conference.
"Driving at 95 miles per hour was nearly quadruple the speed limit when school children are present," Gascón told reporters, adding that it shows a "conscious disregard for those children's lives."
Castro was charged with one count each of murder, vehicular manslaughter and reckless driving causing great bodily injury in connection with the Nov. 3, 2021, crash.
"We feel confident that the overwhelming and strong evidence that was gathered justifies the charges and will speak for itself in a courtroom," said South Gate Police Chief Darren Arakawa.
Gascón 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.
Vigil honors 12-year-old killed in violent South Gate crash involving off-duty deputy
"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."
In emotional remarks, the boy's mother, Betsabe Suarez, 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.
Suarez said the family is "completely broken" by his loss, and said she is thankful that the crash was not brushed "under the rug."
Castro's bail was set at more than $2 million, and he is set to be arraigned March 23. If convicted, Castro faces up to 25 years to life in prison.
City News Service contributed to this report.