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Two Horrific Murders Happened in the Same Phoenix Neighborhood. This is What a Retired Gang Detective Has to Say About the Killings.

PHOENIX — Two horrific murders happened in the same Phoenix neighborhood this year. Both Bernardo Pantaleon and Osvaldo Hernandez Castillo were killed in the area of 15th and Peoria Avenues and police say it was at the hands of criminal street gang members.

Neither victim was affiliated with the gang. In light of the recent violence, a retired gang detective with the Phoenix Police Department rode along with the 12News I-Team to take a closer look at the area and the gang that police say calls the neighborhood home. Specifically, we focused in on the area from the I-17 freeway east to Central Avenue and Dunlap north to Peoria Avenue.

Police do not publicly name the gang as members are often looking for notoriety so 12News is not naming the gang in this story.

“When I first got to the gang unit in 2000, we were in this neighborhood a lot,” the retired detective said. “The neighborhood was very active. There was a lot of gang activity going on.”

The detective, who retired in 2020, said during that period, he spent close to half of his time in that neighborhood.

“There was a lot of enforcement done in this neighborhood based on the amount of time that we were spending here. And due to that enforcement, a lot of the individuals that were here creating that large amount of activity, those people were taken into custody, or did not want to be in custody and so they left the neighborhood,” he explained.

But in recent weeks, gang activity in the neighborhood has been back in the headlines with the news of Castillo and Pantaleon’s murders. Castillo was found dead in a vehicle back in March. Pantaleon’s body was found on a trail at Mountain View Park off of 7th Avenue.

“This is right smack in the middle of the geographic geographical area that they would claim,” the retired officer said.

Gang activity in the Valley fluctuates, according to experts, and the north central Phoenix neighborhood is no exception.

“Younger kids coming up in it, those are Pee Wees. So those are the youngsters about the 10,11, and 12-year-olds,” the retired detective said. “And yes, it starts that young.”

The suspects in Pantaleon and Castillo’s murders are all 20 or 21 years old, what would be considered “youngsters” in gang culture.

“They’re the people that are usually the most active because that age group are the individuals that are wanting to prove themselves the most,” he explained.

The I-Team examined calls for service in the neighborhood this year. Castillo and Pantaleon are two documented homicides. Phoenix data show 30 additional dead bodies reported without details about the circumstances. This year, 911 calls show police responded to at least 45 shots fired or shooting calls. There were more than 600 fight, assault or aggravated assault calls.

Over 1,200 reports were made of theft, burglary or robbery including from homes, businesses and stolen vehicles.

“There are a lot of victims to gang crimes just through property crimes,” the retired detective said. “There are gangs out there that their specialty is they steal cars and they have a stolen car ring. There are other gangs out there that their specialty is they’ll go in and they’ll go do burglaries and property crimes like that.”

So far, four alleged gang members are facing charges in connection to Pantaleon’s death. The suspect accused of killing him, Leonardo Santiago, is also accused of killing Castillo. The suspects are also facing street gang charges.

“How important is it when you’re working a case to try to get those charges?” 12News reporter Bianca Buono asked.

“In getting gang charges, what happens is there is extra punishment that gets added on. And then also, too, by having those charges, you have the ability to pull in other individuals that supported whatever the crime was that occurred,” the former detective explained.

That additional enforcement can help lead to the ultimate goal.

“How challenging is it to actually break up a gang?” Buono asked.

“It depends on how active the gang is and how many individuals you have in the gang. Obviously, the the larger the gang and the the more diverse their crimes are, that becomes more difficult to break that up,” he said.

Source: 12News