Rambler Newspapers

Serving Irving, Coppell and Grand Prairie

Hundreds of people attended a candlelight vigil held for fallen Grand Prairie Officer Albert ‘A.J.’ Castaneda outside of the Public Safety Building on Sunday, June 9.

Castaneda was standing outside of his vehicle, checking speeds on the shoulder of the George Bush Turnpike on June 7, when an out-of-control vehicle struck him around 10:30 a.m. He passed away in an Arlington hospital around 11 a.m. that same morning.

“Thank you for coming to show your appreciation and support to A.J. and the whole force,” Grand Prairie Mayor Ron Jensen said. “Our sincere condolences go out to the family.

“A.J. not only did his job every day, but when he was off, he did things above and beyond the call of duty. When he was not on his regular shift, he worked other shifts, that’s where many of us met him. That’s where we’re going to have to step up. These extra things are what we’re most going to miss, and we are going to have to step up and replace.”

“A.J. Castaneda came to the Grand Prairie Police Department in 2014,” Grand Prairie Police Chief Steve Dye said. “Prior to his service with GPPD, A.J. served with the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office for six years, and served our country for eight years with the U.S. Coast Guard. Officer Castaneda was a tenacious, model police officer with a tireless work ethic and a servant’s heart. His life-long dream was to join the Grand Prairie Police Department, so he could return to the neighborhood where he grew up. He fulfilled that dream when he was hired on January 13, 2014 as a member of our GPPD lateral academy class #3-A.

“A.J. accumulated many professional accolades, including serving as a member of our Hostage Negotiations Team, was the recipient of a Merit Bar, and earned a Lifesaving Medal when he saved the life of a choking baby in September of last year.

“What I’ll remember most about A.J. is his passion and love for serving as a member of GPPD and his willingness to go the extra mile. Each time I saw A.J., we would talk about [his special needs son] Elijah and how he was doing, and he would always tell me, ‘Chief, there’s nowhere I’d rather be, and I’m so grateful to be a member of GPPD to serve our community and the community in which I was raised.’

“I’d always respond, ‘You know, A.J., we are the fortunate ones to have you as a member of our team, and I’m so proud of you for your tremendous work,’ because he stood out, folks. He was not just an average police officer,” Dye said.

Castaneda received the honor of being named the North Texas Police Association Officer of the Month in September 2017 for his initiative in the Dalworth community. He solicited donations and used the money to feed 75 youngsters in this lower socioeconomic neighborhood every Thursday at the local recreation center.

“This is a loss to the policing profession and to our great nation,” Chief Dye said. “While our department, our city and our profession is in pain over this tragedy, we have been equally inspired, encouraged and strengthened by the tremendous outpouring of support from our city leaders, our volunteers, our pastors, the entire community in Grand Prairie and communities beyond.

“Even when we do everything right, as A.J. was doing Friday morning at 10:40 a.m., this terrible incident highlights the dangers that our police officers face on a daily basis in their respective communities. Tonight, your presence is one more visual reminder of how much you appreciate and support us, and we love you for it.”

As the wind kicked up and several candles were extinguished, Dye suggested the attendees turn on their phone flashlights, which created a sea of light in honor of this young officer.