GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - A Grand Prairie police officer was killed Friday morning during a crash on President George Bush Turnpike.
Police say Officer A.J. Castaneda was running radar enforcement around 10:30 a.m. near Dickey Road. He was standing outside his squad vehicle that was parked on the shoulder. Police say that’s when a Nissan 300ZX driver lost control and the police unit, and the officer was thrown off the overpass.
“We have no reason to believe that it was an intentional act,” said Grand Prairie Police Chief Steve Dye. “However, that investigation is ongoing and is subject to change.”
Officer Castaneda was rushed to Medical City Arlington where he later died.
“They were courageous in their attempt to save our officer,” the chief explained. “But we believe he was lost immediately.”
Police say the 17-year-old driver who hit Castaneda was alone in his car and not injured in the accident. There's no word on why he lost control. At this point, he has not been charged.
“He displayed no visual signs of impairment at the scene of the crash,” the chief said. “He has not been arrested. We don’t know if there’s going to be criminal charges forthcoming.”
Friday afternoon, Grand Prairie officers escorted Castaneda’s body from the hospital to the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s office. First responders in several cities learned of the procession route and lined bridges and overpasses to pay their respects as Castaneda passed by.
Chief Dye called Castaneda a model officer and wonderful father. He grew up in this city, and his colleagues say he was devoted to giving back to his community. He is the first officer in Grand Prairie to die in the line of duty in 15 years.
“If I had to describe a model police officer, AJ would be one that would come to mind first,” Dye said.
Castaneda spent five years at Grand Prairie PD, six years with the arrant County Sheriff’s Office and eight years with the U.S. Coast Guard. The 38-year-old officer leaves behind his parents and two children. His colleagues say he died doing a job he truly loved.
“He was a friend, a trusted colleague, an outstanding officer who had a work ethic second to none, who came in every day with passion, to protect and serve,” Dye said.
Grand Prairie PD is working with Arlington Police on funeral arrangements. An off-duty Arlington police officer actually witnessed the crash, stopped to render aid and called first responders.
Dye says he’s grateful to officers from 70 agencies in the Dallas Fort Worth area who all called to offer their condolences.
The Grand Prairie Police Benevolent Association has set up an official donation page for the family of officer Castaneda. It emphasizes all donations go to the family.
Texas Highway Patrol Troopers are now investigating what caused that driver to lose control and hit the officer.