A memorial service was held Monday evening for the 19-year-old man who was shot and killed in a confrontation with police that brought traffic to a halt across north San Antonio back on January 25.
Peggy Castillo was caught in that traffic jam. She says her son Dustin had special needs and she believes his disability may have contributed to his death.
Castillo said, “My son was at fault in some ways, he was, but at the same time, there always has to be other ways of doing things.”
Dustin Castillo died on the main lanes of Loop 410 near San Pedro Avenue during a pursuit by San Antonio Police Officers.
The teen had been accused of stealing a bicycle from a nearby Target store and riding that bicycle into traffic on the dark, busy freeway. Officers said when they tried to stop the teen, he produced a knife and cut one of the officers, who responded with gunfire.
Castillo said she wishes there had been a non-lethal solution.
"I just wish that they would learn more about special need kids, because not every kid has a, shows a disability. Not everybody walks around with a wheelchair or a cane in their hand."
Castillo said she believes her small-framed son could have been brought under control without deadly force.
“To be shot twice is something I will never forget. Why didn't they Taser him? My son was only 110 pounds. He was only 5'2". You have three officers on the scene. You can't tell me you couldn't do something,” Castillo said.
His mother believes the young man was confused and scared.
“He didn't know how to read or write. He was only on a second-grade level. He was special needs. He had an intellectual disability,” Castillo said.
She thinks because he was slow to process information, he may not have fully understood why he was being chased.
Castillo said “Knowing all those lights that were going on and I can see his confusion, could see him trying to figure it out, trying to see what was going on. Was he stressed? Was he trying to process it? How fast was he processing? I don't know.”
Castillo said her son was a Special Olympics athlete who graduated from Churchill High School last year after participating in JROTC. She said he volunteered at the Food Bank and at his church and that he was a kind-hearted person.
“He was very sweet, very kind, very polite, very much of a gentleman and always willing to help. He had a very special heart for everybody, no matter what. He always thought of others and you know, it's just the way he was,” Castillo said.
Castillo said she knows many of her son’s friends and she worries that something similar could happen to any one of them.
“There are lots of children out there. I'm very familiar with a lot of his classmates and it could be any one of them,” Castillo said, adding that she has eight children and four of them have disabilities. She said she is holding them closer than ever since this incident because they do not understand how to navigate in the world.
Castillo said it was five days before police contacted her about her son’s death. She said she has no idea why it took so long to find her because her son was carrying his wallet with his identification and address.
Castillo said her employer and her church community have been very supportive and kind and she said her faith sustains her.