OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — A 23-year-old Overland Park police officer is fighting for his life after contracting COVID-19. Freddie Castro is struggling to survive on a ventilator and has been in the hospital for a month.
Being an Overland Park officer was Castro’s dream come true. His brother, Dominic Pacheco said since he was little, Castro always wanted to make it happen, but now he’s fighting for his life.
“It’s a scary journey but we hope and pray for the best,” Pacheco said.
When he joined the department Castro wore his badge with pride.
“This is just something he’s wanted to do his entire life,” Pacheco said.
His childhood desire never faded. Police Chief Frank Donchez said he first met Castro when he was a young man at an event at Johnson County Community College. The city manager approached Donchez with Castro and told him he wanted to be a police officer but he was too young.
Donchez said he told Castro at the time he was too young to be a police officer but could join their Motor Assist Unit. In his new position Castro thrived.
“That’s Freddie – helping people out,” Donchez said.
Castro was recognized for two instances where he made the difference for people in need.
In 2017, he encountered a paraplegic man who’s accessible van broke down on I-35. The man wrote Donchez about his experience, and in the letter says he was left on the side of the road stuck in his wheelchair with only three dollars in his pocket. The letter says Castro, along with two other officers, assisted the man and his van back to Gardner, Kansas free of charge.
“Please take the time to thank Officer Castro for a job well done,” the man wrote Chief Donchez.
In 2019, when he was 21, Castro finally made his dream come true of being an Overland Park Police Officer.
“He’s a giving individual. He’s a loving individual, and I wish I had more Freddies on the department. He does a fantastic job,” Donchez said.
His brother said it was incredible seeing Castro achieving his childhood goal.
“It’s not even work for him. When you get the job you want it’s just a passion. You have a love for what you do, and that’s the type of person he was,” Pacheco said.
In November of 2020, he helped another person in need. Castro pulled over a car driven by a woman who recently lost her job. Donchez said the woman was despondent after spending the entire day looking for a new job, and was low on gas.
Instead of giving her a ticket, Castro gave her money for food, and then followed her to a gas station where he filled up her tank.
“Officer Castro’s kindness and selflessness reflects credit upon himself, the Overland Park Police Department, and the City of Overland Park,” his “Beyond the Stop” performance award read.
Castro caught COVID-19 in July, and quickly his health deteriorated. Pacheco said he was sick at home for about a week until he went to the hospital.
“It just seems unreal. One day you see him and the next day he has COVID, and he’s quarantining, and then the next day he’s in the hospital, and then the next day he’s on a ventilator fighting for his life,” Pacheco said.
For the past month Castro has been unconscious and on a ventilator. Pacheco said the last time he was able to physically talk to him he was at home, sick, and unsure what to do.
“He was just scared. He didn’t want to be on the ventilator, but he had to be on the ventilator. It was not an option,” Pacheco said.
His brother says he is praying for a miracle, but his organs are failing, he’s had several strokes, and his lungs will need help to breathe for the rest of his life.
After Castro dedicated his life to caring for others, now their family are the ones caring for him in any way they can.
“We love him no matter what, and we’re here to fight with him as long as he’s here to fight with us, and we’re here for him every day. That’s how it’s going to be. whether he makes it out of this or not. We’re always going to be there for him. He doesn’t have to worry about anything or be afraid of anything. That’s how it’s going to be,” Pacheco said.
His family said Castro was not vaccinated when he caught COVID-19. They are unsure about his feelings on vaccination.
If you are wondering how you can help Castro and his family there are a few ways.
The Overland Park Police Officers Foundation is raising funds for his family. They released a statement on Facebook Friday:
“His aspirations and work ethic inspired and impressed those around him. He has been an integral part of our brotherhood and we miss him dearly. Keep fighting brother. We’ll have the watch in the meantime.”The Overland Park Police Officers Foundation
The family is also raising funds through their own Gofundme page.