Suspect in Series of Deadly Orange County Stabbings Has Lengthy Criminal Record; Police Chief Blasts AB 109

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A man accused of killing four people and seriously wounding two others in a machete rampage this week had a violent and lengthy criminal history that Garden Grove’s police chief said should have already landed him in prison.

Zachary Castaneda, 33, is seen a mugshot during a police news conference on Aug, 8, 2019. (Credit: KTLA)
Zachary Castaneda, 33, is seen a mugshot during a police news conference on Aug, 8, 2019. (Credit: KTLA)

The alleged one-man crime wave began about 4 p.m. Wednesday, when 33-year-old Zachary Castenada allegedly carried out three robberies in Garden Grove, then fatally stabbed two men at the same apartment complex where the suspect lived, Garden Grove Police Department officials said.

Castaneda went on to rob a check cashing business, then an insurance office where a woman was stabbed and severely injured while fighting off the attacker, police said.

Minutes later, Castaneda went to a gas station where he nearly severed a man’s nose and slashed him in the back in a seemingly random attack, authorities said. The victim was pumping gas when he was attacked.

Casteneda proceeded to stab a Santa Ana Subway sandwich shop customer to death during a robbery, then drove to a nearby 7-Eleven store. Police said Castaneda fatally stabbed a security guard and took the guard’s gun before being confronted by police outside the business. He surrendered.

In addition to being horrific, Garden Grove Police Chief Tom DaRe said the  violence should have been preventable.

He described Castaneda as a “documented gang member.”

“This person should have been in prison and not allowed to be in our community committing these violent acts,” DaRe said. “Based upon on his prior arrest record, he is a violent individual who should have never been considered for early release based upon Assembly Bill 109.”

Under AB 109, also known as California’s Public Safety Realignment of 2011, felons designated “non-violent, non-serious and non-sex offenders” are eligible to serve their time in county jails, rather than state prisons. Upon release, county probation departments are then responsible for keeping track of the offenders under a program called post-release community supervision, rather than state parole agents.

Many law enforcement officials have decried the legislation, saying it places an extreme burden on local law enforcement agencies and jails, and results in dangerous criminals being released back into society early.

According to Orange County Superior Court records,  Castaneda has numerous prior convictions, and was out on bond awaiting trial in several cases at the time of Wednesday’s violence.

Pending charges included carrying a dirk or dagger, violating a domestic violence restraining order, assault, battery, drug possession, eight counts of gang-related vandalism, petty theft with a prior conviction and receiving stolen property.

His prior felony convictions date back a decade and include seven violations of post-release community supervision probation between 2016 and 2018, records show.

He was convicted of possession of drugs sales in 2016, as well as possession of an assault weapon, possession of a firearm with drugs, four counts of possession of a firearm by a felon, possession of ammunition by a felon, two counts of possession of drugs for sales, possession of marijuana for sales, auto theft and receiving stolen property in 2014. Castaneda was convicted of domestic violence causing severe bodily injury in 2009.

Castaneda’s misdemeanor convictions include battery, resisting police, destroying evidence, vandalism, domestic violence and child abuse or endangerment, court records show.

Castaneda’s criminal past should have removed him from the public long ago, DaRe said.

“As a police chief, I implore our policy makers to reevaluate their policies on criminal justice,” DaRe said.

“The pendulum has swung so far that it is increasingly difficult to keep our communities safe from the rise in violent crime,” the chief said. “California  law enforcement agencies have been crippled by Assembly Bill 109, and offenders are not being held accountable for their crimes.”

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