Mass Stabbing Suspect Should Have Been In Prison, But State Law Kept Him Free
Garden Grove, CA – The convicted felon accused of fatally stabbing four people and wounding two more in a series of random attacks in Garden Grove and Santa Ana was also a known gang member who was released from prison after serving only a fraction of his sentence (video below).
One of his eight vicious attacks was captured by a security camera inside a Garden Grove insurance office.
The video showed 33-year-old gang member Zachary Castaneda as he stormed into the business and confronted a woman sitting behind a desk.
He then pulled out two large knives and made his way around the desk, trapping the woman in her chair.
Castaneda repeatedly slashed the woman with the blades as she held up her hands in an attempt to hold him back, the video showed.
She managed to run past him, but had nowhere to escape.
The injured woman ultimately cowered behind a corner desk as her attacker grabbed items off of a nearby counter and made his way out of the office, the video showed.
According to police, the woman survived the attack, and is expected to recover from her injuries, KABC reported.
Garden Grove Police Lieutenant Carl Whitney said during a press conference on Aug. 7 that the violent stabbing spree was an act of “pure evil,” according to KTLA.
The first attack occurred at an apartment complex on Jentges Avenue just after 4 p.m., when police received a report of a burglary in progress, KCBS reported.
Officers arrived to find that the apartment had been ransacked, according to KTLA.
Minutes later, at approximately 4:23 p.m., police received a report of a robbery at a bakery on Chapman Avenue.
No one was injured during that incident, but witnesses told police that the suspect was armed with a gun and a knife, according to KCBS.
Witnesses also told police that the killer fled the scene in a silver Mercedes.
Just after 5 p.m., officers were dispatched to the same Jentges Avenue apartment where the burglary had occurred approximately an hour before, KTLA reported.
They arrived to find that one of the victims had been murdered.
A second victim was rushed to a local hospital, where he was also pronounced dead, according to KTLA.
Approximately 30 minutes later, officers received a report of a robbery in progress at Cash N More on Harbor Boulevard. No one at the check cashing business was injured during the incident.
At about 6:05 p.m., the suspect struck again – this time at the insurance agency located at Garden Grove Boulevard and Harbor Boulevard.
The attacker repeatedly stabbed a 54-year-old female employee at that location and then fled the area, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“This female employee was very brave; this guy was armed with knives,” Lt. Whitney said. “She fought as best as she could against this armed suspect and sustained multiple stab wounds.”
Just over an hour later, officers were dispatched to a report of a stabbing at a Chevron station located at Banner Drive and Harbor Boulevard, KTLA reported.
Witnesses told police that the suspect was armed with “multiple knives or machetes,” and that he attacked a man who was pumping gas, according to Lt. Whitney.
“[The victim suffered] a laceration to [his] face, where his nose was almost severed off,” the lieutenant said.
He was also stabbed in the back, KTLA reported.
The victim was rushed to a local hospital and was expected to survive.
Officers spotted the rampaging attacker’s vehicle at a 7-Eleven store in Santa Ana at approximately 6:25 p.m. and confronted him as he was exiting the business armed with a gun and knife.
He complied with the officer’s commands, dropped both weapons, and was taken into custody without further incident, KTLA reported.
Officers made their way inside the store and discovered that the suspect had disarmed and stabbed the 7-11 security guard prior to their arrival.
According to investigators, Castaneda sliced the guard’s duty belt and holster off of his body, KABC reported.
The blood-soaked murderer then tried to convince police that he was only covered in tomato juice, Lt. Whitney said.
The security guard was rushed to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Santa Ana Police Commander Robert Rodriguez said, according to KTLA.
Police soon learned that the attacker also murdered a customer at a Subway restaurant across the street from the 7-11 store just prior to their arrival, KTLA reported.
The Santa Ana Police Department and the Garden Grove Police Department are working to establish a motive as they continue to investigate the series of horrific attacks.
“Robbery, hate, homicide – this is all of the above," Lt. Whitney said, according to KTLA. "It's just pure tragedy right now."
Police said that the suspect also lived at the same apartment complex where he committed the first two murders.
According to court records, Castaneda was convicted of a slew of felony offenses in 2014, including possession of ammunition by a felon, possession of a firearm, and drug-related offenses, KABC reported.
He was sentenced to four years in prison, and began serving his sentence on Sep. 30, 2014.
Castaneda was released from prison on Jan. 14, 2016, after earning a day of good time credit for each day he served in prison.
As a result, the convicted felon served only 16 months in prison.
Since his release, he’s been arrested 14 more times, KCAL reported.
Castaneda was also out on bail for three separate cases at the time of the attacks, including an incident on July 19 when he was arrested for drug possession, carrying a dirk or dagger, and driving on a suspended license, according to KCBS.
“He is a violent criminal who should have never been considered for release,” Garden Grove Mayor Steven Jones told KABC.
Garden Grove police said that a 2011 law change aimed at lowering prison populations by allowing so-called “non-violent” offenders to be released onto probation actually prevented the convicted felon from being returned to prison for his various violations, KCBS reported.
Instead, he only served short stints in the county jail for each of his 14 probation violations.
“This person should have been in prison, and not allowed to be in our community committing these violent acts,” Garden Grove Police chief Tom DaRé said, according to KCBS. “As a police chief, I implore our policy makers to reevaluate their policies on criminal justice.”
Castaneda has been charged with one count of attempted murder with premeditation and deliberation, aggravated mayhem, assault with a deadly weapon, first-degree residential burglary, three counts of second-degree robbery, and four counts of murder, The Mercury News reported.
He is eligible for the death penalty, and faces a minimum sentence of life without parole if he is convicted of all of the counts against him.
On Aug. 9, He was arraigned inside his jail cell after he refused to leave it, District Attorney spokeswoman Kimberly Edds told The Mercury News.
He entered not guilty pleas, and has refused to disclose a motive for his random killing spree.
You can watch surveillance footage of the horrific attack inside the insurance office in the video below: