The below article is based on a true-life experience and taken from on-going writings of my tentatively entitled book, Nine Lives: Memoirs of a Border Town Street Cop”.

By Luis C. Castillo


It was early Sunday morning New Year’s Day 20 minutes before ending my police work night shift. The night before had been full of typical police calls for a New Year’s Eve but then again in a border town every night is a New Year’s Eve. There were fights, drunks, accidents, drunk drivers, shots fired, fire crackers, shootings, and domestic quarrels among other things. The police dispatcher broadcasted my unit number and another officer’s over the air waves, “Unit 25, at _______ Laredo St. 10-16 (domestic problem). Unit 33 assist, 06:38 hour”, the police dispatcher said. We acknowledged the call and advised the dispatcher that we were in route. About seven minutes later we arrived at the scene. We approached the front of the house surveying the area around us. The screen door was unlocked, and the front door was opened. After failing to hear any activity coming from inside the house, my partner and I entered the house with caution and handguns drawn. It appeared as though no one was at home. We walked past the living and dining rooms which were littered with lots of beer cans, partially filled glasses of mixed drinks, food plates and so on. Obviously, the occupants had been “partying” all night. We then heard someone’s cries and moans coming from the kitchen room. We entered the kitchen room. I was first and my partner behind me to my left. Surprisingly, we encountered a man probably in his early 30s who was visibly distraught and swaying from side to side. We were about 12 feet apart. He was frantically crying and shouting, “WHAT HAVE I DONE, WHAT HAVE I DONE’. He had a semi-automatic handgun in his right hand with his finger on the trigger. He had the handgun pointed down towards the floor but any movement from him to raise the handgun would result in us shooting him. I had my .357 magnum, a high-power caliber revolver handgun, aimed towards his chest. In front of the man lay a woman probably in her early 30s. She was lying on her back motionless and unconscious. Next to the woman was a little girl who was about 11 or 12 years old. She was kneeling besides the motionless woman attending to her as if trying to wake her up.

We yelled at the man, “DROP THE GUN”, but he didn’t He kept crying in grief and swaying from side to side. I kept my keen eyes focused on his right hand hoping that he wouldn’t try to raise his hand with the gun. I desperately yelled a second time “DROP THE GUN OR WE WILL SHOOT YOU”. One .357 magnum bullet into his chest was certain death. I did not want to kill him. Certainly not in front of the little girl presumably his daughter. And suddenly without warning the little girl rises up from her kneeling position and stands in front of her Dad. She placed her arms backwards around him as in a protective posture. Her sadden and teary eyes staring straight into my despaired eyes. Standing, the little girl’s head measured up to the man’s chest. My handgun aim was now at her forehead. A hundred thoughts and prayers crossed my mind in a split second. I elevated my aim towards the man’s forehead and pulled back the trigger of my .357 magnum revolver to ensure a clean shot if needed. The little girl starts shouting, “NO, NO, NO”, the man frantically continued to cry, and my partner who was also taking aim at the man yells for the third time, “DROP THE GUN OR WE WILL KILL YOU” – all this happening in a matter of seconds. One thing was certain; the little girl was in harm’s way. By God’s grace the man finally dropped the handgun. One can imagine the sigh of relief that took hostage of me.

My partner handcuffed the man and took possession of the handgun, a .380 caliber semi-automatic handgun. Homicide detectives were called. I kneel down to attend to the woman. She had no pulse. She had one small bullet hole on her chest just above her right breast. There was no visible blood front or back which meant that she bled internally. The woman who was the mother of the little girl was dead. Shot by her husband during a heated argument on New Year’s Day. As I kneeled, the little girl taps my shoulder and tearfully asked, “Is my Mommy going to be okay?” I stood up trying unsuccessfully to hold back my tears. I softly hugged the little girl and with a lump in my throat, told her, “Your Mommy is dead”. The little girl broke down and unleashed a howling cry that haunts me to this day.

Sadly, the passage of time has caused me to forget the little girl’s name but certainly not the tragic hair-raising experience. I just know her as “the little girl” that on one New Year’s Day witnessed the loss of her Mommy and came within a split-second of losing her Dad and even her life too. From time to time I wonder what became of “The Little Girl”.


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