Investigation: Roscoe officer fired fatal shots after almost being crushed, believed suspect had gun


Scale drawing of the end of the car chase in Beloit, WI on Mar. 16, 2024

After reviewing an independent investigation into the shooting of a South Beloit carjacker who deliberately drove into a Roscoe police car, Rock County District Attorney David J. O’Leary has determined that Roscoe Police Sgt. Robert Lewis "acted in self-defense..." when he fired at Ray Castro "in order to protect the lives of the citizens and officers endangered by Castro’s life-threatening behavior. It is the conclusion of the Rock County District Attorney that Ray Castro was shot as a direct result of his own actions.... After reviewing the reports [PDF], the body camera and squad video, and photographs of the incident and the witness statements" from the March 16, 2024 police chase, O'Leary says he found "no basis" to prosecute Sgt. Lewis over the shooting. The report of the Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) was released Friday, May 17, 2024.

District Attorney David J. O’Leary tells how the incident began when South Beloit Officer Paul Reed realized that Castro was wanted for two felonies, including armed robbery:

South Beloit officers attempted to handcuff Castro, but Castro resisted arrest and began wrestling with the officers, pulling one of the officers into the vehicle with Castro. While officers continued to attempt to pull Castro from the vehicle, Castro yelled at the driver to “step on it”. The officer inside the vehicle reached over and turned off the ignition, however, Castro then reached over, started the vehicle, and put the vehicle in drive and yelled again at the driver to drive off, which the driver then did. As the vehicle pulled away, one officer was pinned inside the vehicle by Castro and another officer was nearly struck by the vehicle as it pulled away. The officer inside the vehicle was pinned down by Castro and as the two struggled, the officer drew his handgun and shot the driver in the leg, causing the car to drive into the ditch before stopping. Castro and the officer continued to struggle, and Castro was able to break free and began to run from the scene. Officers attempted to use tasers to take Castro into custody but were unsuccessful and Castro ran from the scene. Officers made an emergency broadcast “10-78” requesting all available officers to respond, then officers reported “shots fired” and that the suspect was fleeing on foot.

When police radio said there had been "shots fired" in South Beloit, it did not clarify that it was "officer shots fired" by Officer Paul Reed. In fact, on Beloit Police radio, one officer remarked, "The individual just shot a female in South Beloit." The EMS records also say, "Suspect just shot a female." So Sgt. Lewis says that throughout the chase, he believed Castro "was likely to be in possession of a firearm." A girlfriend, though she knew Castro had been in jail, said that she never knew him to carry a gun. Other officers during the chase could not confirm if the suspect was armed. After Castro's death, no gun was found.

However, Castro was not unarmed. District Attorney David J. O’Leary says that after fleeing on foot into Macktown Lounge, Castro came up behind an employee of the bar, grabbed him by the neck, and said, “I want your car keys.” When the employee resisted, Castro put his pocket knife to the man's throat and threatened, “I’ll cut your god damn throat if you don’t give me them keys.” The Kershaw Cannonball folding knife was found open under Castro's shoulder when he was being given a CT scan at Beloit Memorial Hospital. His wallet contained an I.D. card in the name of Jose Sanchez, which Ray told the girlfriend that he used to get a job.

Photo: Knife Center

District Attorney O’Leary continues the story:

Sgt. Robert Lewis and Officer Ryan Sarver responded from the Roscoe Police Department... Sgt. Lewis subsequently located Castro fleeing the parking lot of Macktown Lounge in a stolen, maroon SUV. Sgt. Lewis initiated pursuit, with lights and siren activated, and Castro fled the area in the maroon SUV at speeds exceeding 90 mph. The high-speed pursuit proceeded north into the City of Beloit, WI, with officers from the Beloit Police Department joining the pursuit.

Rock County, WI dispatch provided a description of Castro as the suspect, that the vehicle he was driving was a red SUV that was taken in a carjacking, and that Castro was wanted regarding a shooting that had just occurred. A lengthy pursuit ensued, which included Castro driving at high speeds through numerous stop signs and red lights and nearly striking several vehicles. At the intersection of Central Avenue and Strong Avenue in the City of Beloit, Officer Sarver’s squad struck the rear axle area on Castro’s vehicle which caused Castro’s vehicle to spin around ending up behind Officer Sarver’s squad, sideways in the road and stopped. Sgt. Lewis stopped his squad, opened his door, exited his squad and pointed his firearm at Castro’s vehicle as Castro’s vehicle accelerated, causing the tires to smoke. Castro spun his vehicle around so that it was headed at speed toward the driver’s side of Sgt. Lewis’ squad and Sgt. Lewis fired several rounds at Castro’s vehicle.

Sgt. Lewis was just able to retreat back into his squad and brace for impact to prevent from being crushed as Castro’s vehicle collided with the driver’s door of the squad while Castro’s vehicle continued to accelerate and engulf both vehicles in smoke. The impact of the collision moved Sgt. Lewis’ squad sideways. BPD Officer Rodenbeck determined that Castro was a threat to the public and would not stop on his own so Officer Rodenbeck drove his squad into the passenger side of Castro’s vehicle pinning him against Sgt. Lewis’ squad. As his squad was being struck by Castro’s vehicle, Sgt. Lewis fired multiple rounds from his firearm at Castro’s vehicle and struck Castro, fatally wounding him.

When Sgt. Lewis heard over the radio "Prairie Hill, Ray Castro, 10-78, shots fired," he expressed surprise. He explains that the message meant that officers "were shot at or shot at a suspect based on a threat of great bodily harm." The radio continued, "female with a gunshot wound... no officers injured." He continued into Beloit and eventually spotted Castro: "hoodie, male Hispanic, he's taking off."

Sgt. Lewis tells the story:

When I saw him it appeared he tried to cover his face and place the hood from his sweatshirt over his head. Based upon the report of the subject fleeing on foot initially, it was most likely that he had carjacked this vehicle and therefore there was a possibility that the owner had now been harmed or endangered. I attempted to execute a traffic stop and the suspect immediately fled from me at high speed westbound on Prairie Hill Road. I suspected, based upon the prior 10-78 call for shots fired, that available units from neighboring jurisdictions may have already responded close to the scene and the subject was outside of where a perimeter could be established. The suspect sped through multiple intersections, a crossing for a bike path, travelled into oncoming traffic, and disregarded multiple stop signs and red lights at high speed. The suspect drove through residential and business areas at high speeds and lost control at one point in a residential area. I believed the driver would cause great injury to another motorist or pedestrian if the pursuit did not end soon. I continued to pursue as I felt he posed a continued risk to the community if he escaped and would likely engage in similar reckless escape attempts and violence to resist arrest if located later after escaping. At all times throughout this pursuit I believed he was likely to be in possession of a firearm.

The pursuit reached 95 miles per hour on Prairie Hill Road in light traffic. Sgt. Lewis noted on the radio whenever he blew through a red light.

Near the conclusion of the pursuit, the suspect went head on toward a Beloit PD squad car before maneuvering in another direction. I was not able to determine if the suspect made contact with the Beloit officer’s squad as Ofc Sarver was now the lead car in the pursuit. Ofc Sarver became the lead squad car in the pursuit near Shirland Avenue and Eighth Street. After going head on with the Beloit squad, Ofc Sarver made contact with the suspect’s vehicle as if he was making a pit maneuver while the suspect made a left turn at high speed. At this time the suspect vehicle was turned and slowed. I suspected the suspect may have been largely boxed in at the time and would abandon the vehicle and either fight or flee on foot. I stopped and was preparing to exit my vehicle and pursue. The suspect looked at me and appeared to come at me intentionally. The suspect accelerated while appearing to turn the direction of his vehicle in an attempt to make a direct impact with the driver’s door of my squad car.

I don’t recall if I ever partially exited the vehicle but recall the feeling of fleeing back into the vehicle to maintain cover in the squad car to keep from being crushed. I braced for contact as the vehicle struck my driver’s door with force and pinned my door shut. I feared I was trapped as well as exposed to potential gunfire as I was still operating under the assumption that he was armed and threatened to fire or fired shots at other officers. I was further concerned for the safety of other innocent bystanders should he resume flight at a high rate of speed, and for the immediate threat to other officers on scene that may have exited their squad cars by this time and would be at substantial risk should he attempt to reverse or accelerate away.

The immediacy and gravity of the decision required split second decision making. Based upon what I felt to be an immediate threat for my safety, the safety of other officers on the scene, and the safety of other members of the community, I discharged my service weapon at the suspect.

After Castro steered his vehicle toward his squad car, Sgt. Lewis began firing his Glock 17 pistol at him. He exited his squad car onto Castro's hood through the broken window, sustaining a cut on his hand. Thirty seconds later, Lewis told a Beloit Police officer the subject had run his vehicle into Lewis' door and he thought he was going to get pinned. He also said he believed Castro had killed “that lady.” 

Paramedics arrived within five minutes. Castro's family went to the hospital to say goodbye, and authorized him to be removed from life support at 4:19 p.m.

In total, more than 40 first responders were involved in the incident. 

More News from South Beloit
I'm interested
I disagree with this
This is unverified