DALLAS - A Grand Prairie police officer who died in the line of duty was honored before being laid to rest on Thursday.
Family, friends and law enforcement officials from across Texas gathered to pay their respects for Officer A.J. Castaneda at The Potter’s House Church in Dallas. Last week, Officer Castaneda was using radar to look for speeders on the President George Bush Turnpike when police said a 17-year-old driver lost control and hit him.
“AJ was one of the most selfless officers I have ever worked with who had a heart the size of Texas,” Grand Prairie Police Chief Steve Dye said during the funeral. “A.J. will forever be in our hearts and not forgotten.”
Officer Castaneda was born and raised in Grand Prairie. He served his own community as an officer for five years. During that time received several awards and honors, including patrol officer of the year and received a life-saving medal for saving a choking baby last fall.
“He had many qualities everyone should strive to have. A.J. will not be forgotten, and we should all strive to be a little more like A.J.,” said GPPD Ofc. Thomas Berrettini.
He also bought pizza for kids at his local community center every week and was one of the first to volunteer to go down to help Hurricane Harvey victims, Chief Dye said.
Castaneda also spent six years with the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office and served for eight years in the United States Coast Guard.
He was also devoted to his family, especially his 11-year-old son, often taking extra off-duty jobs to support his son’s needs. He was working one of those extra shifts the day he died.
On Wednesday, the officer’s family held a visitation service at the Wade Funeral Home in Arlington. His fellow officers remembered him for his dedication to the job and to his family.
“AJ was a good man. We’re all proud of him, how he held himself as an officer... proud of him being a family man and his work ethic,” said Officer Carlos Canelos with the Grand Prairie Police Department.
Canelos said Castaneda was also known as the "king of memes" in the office.
"He would take a picture without somebody knowing and then a few minutes later you would be a... maybe you had a hat on or sunglasses. He was always making people laugh," he said.
T-Shirts to Support Officer Castaneda
People are showing their support for Officer Castaneda by buying t-shirts made in his honor. Proceeds from the shirt sales go to his family.
Organizers said they have already sold out of the shirts made this week. They are making more and those will be on sale at the Grand Prairie Police Department from noon to 3 p.m. Thursday.