Slain armored car guard was from Lawrenceville

The armored car guard  shot to death while leaving the Toco Hill Kroger with a bag of cash Tuesday was identified by police Wednesday as a Lawrenceville resident.

Gary Castillo, 32, was shot three times around noon outside the grocery store where he had just made a pickup, according to the FBI. He died later in the day at Grady Memorial Hospital.

Castillo enlisted in the Georgia National Guard and did a tour of duty in Afghanistan. He is survived by his wife and 9-year-old son.

In a statement to CBS Atlanta, Castillo's family described him as a "self-motivated, courageous, caring individual whose smile would light up any room. He was our Hero. He will undeniably be missed by us all and many more. Thank you and may God be with us all during this time."

Castillo was shot as he walked to his vehicle at the curb. He had just collected cash from the Kroger in the 2200 block of Lavista Road.

The gunman picked up the bag and sped off in a light blue Mercury Marquis with over-sized chrome rims, according to a police incident report. The car was found in a nearby neighborhood, and witnesses there told police they saw someone park the blue car and hop into a waiting red car -- it might have been a Toyota Camry -- driven by someone else.

The shooting was captured on a surveillance camera, but the images of the suspect were inseparable from those of the victim and the FBI decided against releasing such graphic photos, FBI spokesman Stephen Emmett told the AJC. He called the robbers "ruthless," saying they fired without provocation.

A nurse who was shopping nearby tried to help Castillo, but there was little she could do. Ann Angulo was shopping in a bookstore when she heard gunshots and saw the light blue sedan speed through the parking lot. She told the store personnel to call 911, then rushed to the parking lot to help Castillo.

"He had a pulse, and he was barely breathing," she told the AJC. He was unconscious, so she rolled him on his side so he wouldn't choke on his own blood.

He appeared to have a gunshot wound to the back of the head, Angulo said.

"I don't know why they didn't just shoot him in the leg," she said.

The FBI has connected the suspects in the case to more than a half-dozen similar armored car robberies. Emmett said it's rare for robbers to take on armed guards. Investigators immediately started looking for similarities in the string of crimes that started on Sept. 14 with the robbery of a courier who was servicing a Bank of America ATM in northwest Atlanta.

As in Tuesday's robbery, the assailants in those other cases were armed and used a stolen getaway vehicle, Emmett said. They pointed handguns at the guards, but didn't start shooting them until the last robbery, on Jan. 21.

In that one, at a Wells Fargo bank on Redan Road, a courier was shot multiple times and survived.

"They gave the guard no chance to retreat and no chance to surrender the money without bloodshed," Emmett told the AJC.

Witnesses in that attack told authorities that the gunman used a black semi-automatic .40 caliber handgun and fled in a white Jeep Cherokee driven by another man. The shooter was described as a black man in his late 20s or early 30s who stood one to four inches under 6 feet. He had a medium build and slight facial hair and was dressed in a grey hooded sweatshirt and blue jeans.

The gunman Tuesday was described as having a similar height and age. The getaway had been carjacked the day before in Snellville, FBI agent Brian D. Lamkin said.

Angulo, the nurse who rushed to Castillo's side Tuesday, said she had been shopping at the Toco Hill Kroger for 17 years. She said she'd never seen a robbery or other violent crime there in all those years, and said she feels it's still a safe place to shop.

"I would be more worried if my husband was an armored guard," she said.

Castillo's employer, Garda Cash Logistics, is offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction and the recovery of the stolen money. A company spokesman would not release details about Castillo and said there would be no comment about the robberies.

Crime Stoppers Atlanta also is offering a reward of up to $5,000, according to DeKalb County Police. Anyone with information can call Crime Stoppers Atlanta at 404-557-8477 or the FBI at 404-679-9000.

Other recent robberies of armored car guards, according to the FBI, include:

  • Jan. 21: around 9 a.m., two couriers for Loomis Armored were servicing an ATM at a Wells Fargo bank at 4798 Redan Rd. in Stone Mountain. A gunman approached and opened fire then fled in a white Jeep Cherokee driven by another man.
  • Dec. 7: around 11 a.m., two couriers for Dunbar Armored were servicing an ATM in the Mall of Georgia when an armed man forced one of them to the ground. When the robber fled through a mall side door, the other courier shot at him.
  • Nov. 29: around 9 a.m., a Loomis courier was servicing an ATM at a Wells Fargo Bank at 3520 Centerville Highway in Snellville. A man put a handgun to the courier's head and took an undisclosed amount of cash. The robber fled in a light blue or silver sedan.
  • Nov. 11: a Dunbar courier was servicing an ATM at a Bank of America at 1500 Buford Highway in Buford. Two men with handguns, one with a gold tooth, robbed the courier then fled in a blue Chevrolet Tahoe that had been reported stolen in Atlanta.
  • Oct. 7: around 1 p.m., a Dunbar courier was ambushed upon entering a Mex-America Latino store at 641 South Marietta Parkway in Marietta. Two men with handguns, one with dreadlocks, had been waiting in the store.
  • Sept. 14: a courier for Garda Cash Logistics was servicing an ATM at a Bank of America at 1775 Howell Mill Rd. in Atlanta. Two men with semi-automatic handguns forced the courier to the ground and took his gun.