In the community

Castro charged with aggravated murder in death of Nyssa reserve officer

Malheur County District Attorney Dave Goldthorpe on Tuesday charged Rene Castro of Nyssa with aggravated murder and four other counts in the shooting death of Nyssa reserve police officer Joseph Johnson.

Castro, 36, was arrested in Ontario on Monday, April 17, and was arraigned in Malheur County Circuit Court at 1 p.m. Tuesday. Hillsboro attorney David Rich has been appointed to represent him, according to court records. Castro is being held on $1 million bail, and is expected back in court on Friday, April 21, when he is expected to be presented with a grand jury indictment.

Goldthorpe has scheduled a press conference for 3 p.m. in Ontario.

Castro could face the death penalty if convicted of aggravated murder. Under Oregon law, he could also be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release or life imprisonment with no release for at least 30 years. Goldthorpe was not immediately available to answer what punishment he would seek if there is a conviction.

Castro also has been charged with first-degree murder, unlawful use of a weapon, felon in possession of a firearm and fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer. All are felony crimes.

READ IT: Charging document

The charging document said that Castro “intentionally and with premeditation” killed Johnson.

The charges were filed as an honor escort accompanied Johnson’s body, being taken to Ontario on Tuesday to Haren-Wood Funeral Chapel in preparation for a funeral expected Saturday. About 45 police, fire and medic vehicles joined the procession into town.

VIDEO: Escort to funeral home

Joseph Johnson, center, receives the Outstanding Performance Award from the Nyssa Police Department, where he was a reserve officer. It was presented by Chief Don Ballou and City Manager Jim Maret. (Nyssa Police Department)

Johnson, 43, was on duty Saturday, April 15, when he was dispatched to a call of a disturbance in Nyssa on Saturday, April 15. According to an earlier statement from Goldthorpe, Johnson pursued a suspect to a home in Nyssa. The gunman shot and killed Johnson as he sat in his patrol car.

Authorities identified Castro as the suspect and tracked him to an Ontario home, where the Oregon State Police SWAT team arrested him early Monday morning.

Johnson had been a reserve officer for the Nyssa Police Department since 2018. He also worked for the Oregon Department of Corrections as a behavioral health specialist at Snake River Correctional Institution. He is survived by his wife and two children.

Castro has a record of several criminal convictions and served several years in state prison for shooting three people in Ontario in 2006.


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Contact Editor Les Zaitz by email: [email protected].

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