An 18-year-old suspected gang member has been arrested in connection with the death earlier this month of a well-known taxicab driver from Merced, the Police Department confirmed.
Joseph Castrillo was booked into the Merced County Jail on suspicion of murder, police said in a news release. He was booked into jail just before 1 a.m. today, according to jail records.
Castrillo was arrested in connection with the Jan. 5 death of Dean Barker 59, who was gunned down in the 300 block of Mimi Lane.
Barker was a well-known driver with the Merced Taxicab Co., where he worked for about seven years.
Barker’s adult son, Michael, said his family was “extremely grateful” to the Merced police officers for their work on the case. “It means so much to us,” Michael Barker told the Sun-Star. “We honestly were afraid nothing was going to happen because so many crimes go unsolved these days, but (police) really put a lot of effort into it and it means so much to us.”
Capt. Tom Trindad said the case is still under investigation and said he could not comment on too many details, but did say investigators believe Barker’s death was possibly the result of a botched robbery.
“We do believe the original motive for this was, at first, a robbery,” Trindad told the Sun-Star. He declined to elaborate, citing a need to protect the investigation.
Trindad praised the work of the department’s detective’s bureau and particularly the efforts of Detective Paul Johnson, the lead investigator in the case.
“Detective Johnson, it goes without saying, did an outstanding job making the break in this case, but it was also definitely a team effort with various units coming together to affect this arrest without any incident,” Trindad said.
The department’s SWAT Team, the Gang Task Force, and the Gang Violence Suppression Unit worked together on surveillance and eventually the arrest of Castrillo, who was taken into custody at his home on El Verrano Way, Trindad said.
The firearm used in the case has not been recovered, police said.
Michael Barker described the incident as “a total waste of life.”
“If he (the robber) would’ve asked my dad for the money, he would’ve just given it to him,” Michael Barker said in a telephone interview. “It’s just a total waste of life and now (the suspect’s) family has to be without him and it’s over a pathetic amount of money that cab driver’s carry. The gun that was used could’ve probably been sold for more money than my dad was carrying that night.”
Barker’s four adult sons have described the devastation the family has experienced in the wake of the sudden and violent loss of their father.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.