A Grand Prairie police officer known for his dedication to the community was killed Friday morning when he was hit by a car while standing outside his vehicle running radar, according to police.
Grand Prairie Officer Albert “A.J.” Castaneda, 38, died shortly before 11 a.m. at an Arlington hospital.
Castaneda was standing near his patrol vehicle on the inside shoulder of President George Bush Turnpike about 10:30 a.m. when the driver of a Nissan 300ZX lost control of the car and hit him, police said. The officer was thrown from the elevated highway to the ground below, police said.
Troopers with the Texas Department of Public Safety are investigating the accident, and no charges have been filed against the driver, Grand Prairie police said.
The 17-year-old male driver of the Nissan was not injured, and no one else was in the car. The driver showed no visible signs of impairment, police said.
Grand Prairie Police Chief Steve Dye tweeted at 2:25 p.m about Castaneda’s death. “It is with deep sadness that I announce we have lost one of our @GrandPrairiePD Officers this morning. Our department is hurting... our community is hurting... our city is hurting. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we move forward,” he said.
“I want the conversation to now turn to the legacy of Officer Castaneda,” Dye said at a news conference Friday afternoon.
Castaneda grew up in the Dalworth neighborhood of Grand Prairie, Dye said. He returned to that neighborhood every Thursday to buy pizza for the kids at the rec center there.
“This was on his own accord,” Dye said. “He didn’t want attention. He didn’t want recognition. This was his character and it tells you a lot about the person we lost today. He gave back as good or better than any officer I have seen in my 35 years.”
Dye noted that Castaneda had volunteered to work Friday on his day off.
This is the first death of an on-duty officer in Grand Prairie since 2004, according to the department.
Castaneda was a five-year veteran of the Grand Prairie police force who was assigned to the patrol division’s field operations bureau.
He was featured by local news agencies in September when he saved a child who was choking at the Mid-Autumn Festival at Asia Times Square.
Dye said Castaneda would revisit calls he had responded to, trying to make sure those cases were resolved.
“He is not the officer who just ran his calls and did what he had to do,” Dye said. “He was just a man of character, a man of compassion, a work ethic second to none and devoted to his family. When I would pass him in the hallway, he would always say, ‘Chief, I can’t think of any place I would rather be today.’ “
He worked for six years with the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office and served as a member of the United States Coast Guard from 2000 to 2008.
He was a father of two children, including a son with special needs, who Castaneda worked to get experimental treatments for, Dye said.
He was “a friend, a trusted colleague, and an outstanding officer whose passion was providing service to the public,” according to a news release from Grand Prairie police.
“He just loved coming to work every day and that’s how we want to remember him,” Dye said.
The accident occurred on PGBT near Dickey Road, police said. Dye said Castaneda was following best practices by standing outside of his Chevy Tahoe while using a hand-held radar device as part of a speed enforcement project. Officers need to face toward oncoming traffic to measure its speed, he said.
The department does everything it can to project its officers, “but at the end of the day it’s a dangerous job,” he said.
An off-duty Arlington officer saw the accident and stopped to call it in, police said.
Castaneda was taken to Medical City Arlington hospital, where officers from other departments gathered to show support.
The northbound lanes of PGBT near Dickey Road were closed after the accident and reopened shortly before 5 p.m., according to DPS.
Notes of support, flowers and condolences may be placed on and near a Tahoe outside of the Grand Prairie Police Department headquarters, police said.
The Grand Prairie Police Benevolent Association established an official donation page on its website for Castaneda’s relatives.