Crime

2016 Officer-shooting death of Amber Alert suspect in Solvang ruled justifiable

District Attorney releases investigation report

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - A newly released report into the investigation of the May 26, 2016 officer-involved shooting in Solvang by the Santa Barbara County District Attorney's Office finds that police were justified in killing Amber Alert suspect Fernando Castro.

The 19-year-old suspect had been the subject of a manhunt following the kidnapping of 15-year-old Pearl Pinson out of Solano County. A witness told police that Castro and Pinson were arguing at an overcrossing on the I-780 when Castro appeared to force the teen to walk quickly across the crossing.

According to the report, when the victim went in for a closer look, Pinson was seen with a bloody face yelling "Help! Call the Police. He is going to shoot me." Castro turned to face the witness and pointed a gun at him which made the witness run away. That's when the witness heard a gunshot according to the report.

Pinson has not been yet located.

Soon after the Amber Alert was sent out, a driver in the Santa Maria area saw the suspect vehicle driving southbound on U.S. Highway 101 and immediately called 911. California Highway Patrol Officer Olsen heard the broadcast and located Castro and his car. The officer tried to initiate a traffic stop in the Los Alamos area.

Castro pulled over on Main Street just north of Augusta Street in Los Alamos. The following is an excerpt from the District Attorney's report:

"Officer Olsen got out of his patrol vehicle, drew his firearm and stood in the “V” created by the driver door of his vehicle. Officer Olsen called out to Castro to turn off his vehicle engine. Castro did not respond but instead drove off at a high rate of speed through Los Alamos with Officer Olsen in pursuit. Officer Olsen radioed other CHP units and Officer Franco and Sergeant Heidebrink entered the pursuit. Multiple Sheriff’s Deputies positioned themselves in the area while the CHP units pursued Castro."

Shortly after a lengthy pursuit that eventually placed Castro traveling eastbound on state Route 246 from Buellton, the first officer involved shooting occurred. The report says:

"Castro drove recklessly at a high rate of speed through heavy traffic on Highway 246 towards Solvang with Deputy Flint in pursuit. As Castro passed Skytt Mesa, Deputy Flint broadcast that the suspect kept reaching towards the center console...Castro then turned right onto Sierra Vista Drive, which is an entrance into the Rancho Santa Ynez Mobile Estates...As Castro jumped out of his vehicle he was facing Deputy Flint’s vehicle, raised his right arm with a gun in his hand, and pointed it directly at Deputy Flint. Castro momentarily fell to the ground but quickly jumped back up and began firing his gun at Deputy Flint."

Soon after that, a second officer-involved shooting occurred as Castro tried to flee the area in a stolen pickup truck and began firing at deputies who fired back and killed Castro. An autopsy revealed Castro had suffered multiple gunshot wounds to the head, neck, back and chest as well as shots to his left arm and thighs.

To read the full investigative report and analysis, click here.


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