KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Despite being on a ventilator at North Kansas City Hospital for nearly five weeks, Overland Park officer Freddie Castro fought COVID-19 until the end, according to his uncle.
The 23-year-old Castro died Tuesday after testing positive for the virus in July.
Overland Park Police Chief Frank Donchez said during a news conference Tuesday night the department will honor him as they would any fallen law enforcement member.
And it's a department Castro was proud to be a part of.
"Man, he always has a smile on his face because he loved what he was doing,” Donchez said. “He loved being a police officer. He couldn't wait to be one. He loved being one.”
Rachel Scattergood, of the Overland Park Fraternal Order of Police, echoed Donchez's thoughts.
"He just had such a fire for this line of work, such a great human being," she said, "and to not see his dream come to fruition, it's going to be hard."
Castro's dream became a reality when he turned 19 years old.
"We brought Freddie on board as one of our motorist assist officers,” Donchez said, “[and he] did a fantastic job as a motor assist officer. He got commendations and people writing letters about the great job that he did, and the day he turned 21, he got on board with taking the test and getting on the police department.”
But in mid-July, his family said, a roommate took the 23-year-old officer to North Kansas City hospital for what he considered was a fever and some allergies at first. It turned out to be COVID-19.
"He fought until this this afternoon when it was time for him to go,” John Fierro, his uncle, said. “I mean, he was here for 37 days – 35 of those days on that ventilator – and I tell you, to see what he has gone through and the shape that he was in, no one should go through that.”
Castro wasn't vaccinated. The reasons are unknown.
"It is not a not to be taken lightly and so we're all sad," Fierro said.
Donchez said about 70% of his department is vaccinated.
Castro's loss is profound for a department that two years ago lost another brother in blue. Hearts are once again heavy.
"Being here such a short time, he made a lasting impression on this department and on this community of Overland Park," Donchez said.
Mina Morales, a friend of Castro's, told KSHB 41 News that he was always there for people.
"He definitely made you feel better on a bad day," Morales said. "He was just a kind soul. Someone you always needed."
A motorcade escorted Castro's body from North Kansas City Hospital to Overland Park Funeral Chapel later Tuesday night.
Castro joined the department when he was 19 and served as motorist assist officer. Two years later, he became a police officer.
The Overland Park FOP set up a fund to help Castro's family.