A memorial was set up for Officer Albert “AJ” Castenada Jr. at the Grand Prairie Police and Fire Building on Saturday, June 8th.
Grand Prairie residents came out to pay their respects to Officer Castenada, who was tragically killed in the line of duty during a routine patrol on the President George Bush Turnpike on Friday, June 7th. Castenada was struck by an out-of-control vehicle on the turnpike, resulting in his death.
Detective Greg Parker of the Grand Prairie Police Department, said Castenada was an officer for 11 years, 5 years with the GPPD and 6 years with the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office.
“Unfortunately, the world is well aware of how dangerous our job is…but someone has to come out here and do what we do,” Parker said. “AJ was simply running traffic enforcement trying to keep the George Bush turnpike safe from unsafe drivers, and that ultimately cost him his life. AJ loved this job, he loved this city, he loved this community. I can’t think of a better way I would want to be remembered than doing something I loved and giving my life to protect the people I cared about.”
Detective Parker also said he was deeply touched to see the outpouring of love and support the community has shown for not just Castenada, but the entire Grand Prairie Police Department.
“A lot of the things we do are thankless, because people don’t want to see us until they absolutely need us,” Parker said. “So when we get the chance to be able to see things like this, to see the support and outreach from the community, it’s a big deal for us. We don’t get to see it very often.”
Justin Snyder was a member of the Grand Prairie PD’s Explorer’s program, where he met and befriended Officer Castenada.
“[AJ] brought me in as the new guy,” Snyder said. “I had never met him before, he had never met me, and he brought me in by telling jokes and being kind of sarcastic. He had great stories to tell. He was there to bring us all in as a family, and he did that in such a loving and funny way.”
“He was always happy, he was always about the community. He was a people person. I heard stories, especially from Chief Dye, about how he would bring pizza to the people at Dalworth. And I saw him multiple times out there in the community just talking to people, shaking hands with people. He was always there, and I just want people to know about his love for the people.”
Snyder said that he plans on becoming a police officer as well, and hopes to be as selfless and community-driven as Officer Castenada was.
“He wanted people to know that it was not about him,” Snyder said. “And that’s something we can take into our own lives. We get self-absorbed sometimes, it’s very easy, especially when you’re a teenager. But we can look at AJ as an example of how to be a good role model.”
You can view video of the interviews below:
Video by John Starkey