Grand Prairie, TX – Grand Prairie Police Officer Albert “A.J.” Castaneda died in the line of duty on Friday morning, when he was struck by a vehicle while running radar outside his patrol unit.
“This is going to be tough, so bear with me,” Grand Prairie Police Chief Steve Dye told reporters just prior to a press conference on Friday afternoon.
The incident occurred on the President George Bush Turnpike near Dickey Road at approximately 10:40 a.m., Chief Dye said.
Officer Castaneda was standing on an overpass on the shoulder of the highway using a hand-held laser speed detector as part of an overtime traffic control detail, when the 17-year old male driver of a Nissan 300ZX lost control of his vehicle for an unknown reason, and slammed into him, the chief explained.
The force of the impact threw Officer Castaneda off of the overpass, and onto the roadway below.
The five-year veteran-of-the-force was rushed to Medical City Arlington, where the “courageous” medical personnel desperately tried to save him, Chief Dye said.
“But we believe he was killed immediately” after the crash, he said solemnly.
The driver of the Nissan was not injured in the collision, and “displayed no signs of impairment” at the scene, Chief Dye said.
The chief said it is unknown if the teen driver was speeding or not, and noted that there is “no reason to believe it was an intentional act” at this time.
He has not been charged in connection with the fatal crash, but the Texas Department of Public Safety’s investigation into the incident is ongoing.
“It is with deep sadness that I announce we have lost one of our @GrandPrairiePD Officers this morning,” Chief Dye tweeted earlier in the day. “Our department is hurting... our community is hurting... our city is hurting. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we move forward.”
Prior to his law enforcement career, Officer Castaneda served in the U.S. Coast Guard for eight years.
He spent six years working for the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office before he joined the Grand Prairie Police Department (GPPD) five years ago.
Officer Castaneda was a member of the dayshift patrol division, and came in to the job every day with a “passion to protect and serve” and a work ethic that was “second to none,” Chief Dye said.
He grew up in the area he served, and “gave back as good or better” than any officer the chief has ever known, he added.
Officer Castaneda was so passionate about his old neighborhood, he went back once each week to bring pizza to the kids living there.
He regularly told the chief that it was and “honor and privilege” to serve the same neighborhood he grew up in, Chief Dye said.
“I could see how fulfilling it was for him,” the chief recalled.
Officer Castaneda’s large stature was offset by his gentle spirit, he said.
“If I had to describe a model police officer, he would be one who comes to mind,” the chief continued. “He just had a soul that really exemplified that ‘servant’ aspect of what we do.”
Officer Castaneda leaves behind his two young children, his parents, and many loving family members.
“He died loving what he was doing…he gave his life serving his community,” Chief Dye said. “We will forever take care of A.J.’s family.”
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Grand Prairie Police Officer Albert “A.J.” Castaneda, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Rest easy, hero. We’ll hold the line from here.