In the community

Nyssa man accused of killing officer has violent record, including previous shooting

The Nyssa man suspected of gunning down reserve officer Joseph Johnson had long-standing disputes with his sometime girlfriend, who lived in the house where the shooting occurred on Saturday, April 15, according to court records.

Police arrested Rene Castro, 36, early Monday, April 17, in Ontario. 

Johnson, a reserve with the Nyssa Police Department since 2018, was responding to a call about someone damaging property and threatening others, according to a statement from Malheur County District Attorney Dave Goldthorpe.

Johnson was shot to death after pulling into the North Third Street home behind a vehicle police suspect was driven by Castro.

Court records show Castro has had disputes with police in Malheur County off and on for years and has repeatedly pleaded guilty to domestic violence crimes involving his girlfriend, who court records indicate is the mother of his two sons. The Enterprise does not identify the victims of domestic violence.

Rene Castro, the Nyssa man suspected of shooting and killing Joseph Johnson, a Nyssa reserve officer, Saturday, April 15, had a violent past that included opening fire outside an Ontario home in 2006.

His first appearance in adult court came in 2004, when he was 18 and was convicted of contempt of court. He was sentenced to two months in jail. Court records indicate there were earlier criminal cases when he was a juvenile but documents in such instances are closed to the public.

In June 2006, Castro opened fire outside an Ontario home after a dance, injuring three women, according to a report at the time by the Argus Observer.

He pleaded guilty to three counts of second-degree assault. He was sentenced to prison, entering the Oregon Department of Corrections system in October 2006. He was released to be supervised in Malheur County in May 2012.

Within about six months, he was in legal trouble again, the court records show. He was charged with fourth-degree assault and resisting arrest. Documents weren’t immediately available related to the crime, but Castro pleaded guilty to the assault charge.

A year later, he pleaded guilty to resisting arrest and was sentenced to six months in jail, records show.

In 2016, Nyssa police responded to the report of a domestic dispute between Castro and his girlfriend. Police reported finding a broken window and attempted to get Castro to leave the house to talk.

A police sergeant wrote in an affidavit that he saw Castro “step out onto the porch with his minor child in his arms, while holding a kitchen knife in his right hand under the child.”

Castro went back into the house, put down the child and returned to the porch with the knife. He ignored police commands to drop the knife.

“Mr. Castro came down the steps in my direction with the knife facing forward in his right hand,” according to the affidavit by Sgt. Todd Harnden. “I pointed my duty pistol at Mr. Castro and I ordered him to drop the knife as I thought he was coming at me or someone else with the intention of using the knife to inflict injury.”

Two other officers deployed their tasers and Castro was taken into custody, the affidavit said.

Castro later pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment and was sentenced to 18 months of probation and drug and alcohol treatment at Lifeways. However, a 2018 letter from Lifeways stated that Castro had yet to attend any drug and alcohol treatment or domestic violence sessions. 

Court records show that in 2018, Castro kicked in a hotel room door in Ontario, where he and his girlfriend stayed, according to an affidavit. The girlfriend told police that Castro wanted back into the hotel room but she had used the safety chain and advised him to “give her a minute.”

Instead, he became enraged and kicked the door open, prompting his girlfriend to run out of the room “dressed only in a towel,” to bang on other doors for help. 

“She was afraid that when he kicked in the door that he was going to beat her,” the affidavit read. 

According to the documents, the girlfriend saw Castro run down the hotel stairs with her son. When police pulled up, the affidavit read Castro was holding the child in front of the hotel. The child was dressed in only an adult hoodie with no shoes and socks in below-freezing weather at nearly 3 a.m., according to the court documents.

Castro pleaded guilty to recklessly endangering another person and was put on probation for 18 months.

In 2020, Nyssa police responded to the girlfriend’s Nyssa home and were told that Castro had shown up, yelling, pounding on a fence, breaking a gate and throwing rocks at the house. Charges in that case were pending when Nyssa police again responded to the girlfriend’s home, in March 2021 for a domestic dispute.

 He later pleaded guilty to second-degree criminal mischief and second-degree disorderly conduct for the 2020 case and guilty to harassment in the 2021 case. He was sentenced to 50 days in jail.

On July 31, 2022, Nyssa police responded to the report of another domestic dispute at the girlfriend’s home. One officer noted in an affidavit that he had been to the residence “multiple times for domestic violence reports.”

The police affidavit recounted witness statements that Castro pushed his girlfriend on this occasion and broke out a window on the home with a rock.

A month later, Castro pleaded guilty to fourth-degree attempted assault and second-degree criminal mischief. He was placed on probation for 18 months.

As a result of Castro’s multiple violent crime convictions, his right to own a firearm had been revoked, according to a 2022 court documents.


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News tip? Contact reporter Steven Mitchell by email: [email protected].

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