BEACH — A late-night combination of “doing tricks” with a pistol and drinking whiskey turned deadly for a Beach man, according to testimony during a preliminary hearing Thursday in Southwest District Court.
Richard Young, 24, of Beach, died on June 10, four days after his friend, Gabriel Castro, 23, also of Beach, allegedly shot him in the head with a 1911 .45-caliber pistol on or around June 6 at Young’s residence.
After initially telling Golden Valley County Sheriff’s officials that Young shot himself, Castro confessed to an agent with the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation on June 24 that he had pointed the gun at Young and fired it, claiming it was part of Young’s coercing him to perform a “trick” with the pistol. Castro was then charged with murder, hindering law enforcement and providing false information to law enforcement.
Castro’s court-appointed attorney, Kevin McCabe, argued his client stated in his confession that the shooting was accidental and, because of that, the murder charge should be dismissed.
Golden Valley County state’s attorney Christina Wenko, however, argued there was intent, as Castro had admitted in his confession that he handled the gun, pointed it at Young and pulled the trigger moments after Young called Castro a derogatory term.
“When he was called a (expletive) your honor, he decided to take other action,” Wenko said. “That’s when he rose up, he pointed that weapon, he pulled the trigger and then he was left with the consequences of his actions, which he attempted to conceal from law enforcement.”
Judge Dann Greenwood upheld the murder charge, a Class AA felony, and moved the case forward to further hearings following a short back-and-forth between McCabe and Wenko over the state’s definition of murder.
However, the judge dismissed the Class C felony charge of hindering law enforcement because of wording in the North Dakota Century Code that states the charge can only be levied against a person if they’re hindering law enforcement’s efforts involving another person. Greenwood upheld Castro’s charge of providing false information to law enforcement, a Class A misdemeanor.
BCI Special Agent Timothy Helmer said Castro and his girlfriend, Brenna Miller, initially gave false information to Golden Valley County Sheriff’s offi- cials about the circumstances of Young’s shooting and eventual death as he described the events of the case during nearly an hour of testimony.
Helmer was brought into the case by the Golden Valley County Sheriff’s Office about two weeks after the shooting and about 10 days after Young’s death. From there, he said he began to piece together evidence — including findings supported by the state Medical Examiner’s Office — that showed Young’s death was not from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, as Castro and Miller initially told authorities.
An autopsy showed the trajectory of the bullet and its point of impact in Young’s head were not consistent with a self-inflicted wound, Helmer said. He also said there was evidence of bullet slugs and skull fragments in the home’s kitchen, where Young was allegedly standing when he was shot.
Helmer said, according to Castro’s confession and his interview with Miller, that the night started off innocently as Castro and Young drank whiskey and the three watched the movie “Deadpool.” He said the scene was described as “relaxed” and “joyous.”
But shortly after Castro and Miller arrived, Young began brandishing the .45-caliber pistol
— which he’d eventually be shot with — and began showing the couple “tricks” with the gun, including one where the gun user can “give the perception to someone that the gun is loaded but it’s not loaded.”
Castro allegedly said in his confession that he was attempting to perform that trick when he shot Young, but he also said Young coerced him into firing the pistol and that he was conflicted about pulling the trigger in that the moment. Castro’s confession stated he pulled the trigger and included details about seeing Young in the gun’s sights about three to five feet away from Young — information that was consistent with the state Medical Examiner’s Office findings.
While the minutes following Young’s shooting remain unclear, Helmer said, he said Miller stated in an affidavit that after shooting Young “Castro dropped the gun, grabbed a black T-shirt and attempted to wipe his prints off the gun. After he attempted to wipe his prints off the gun, he also attempted to collect the three drinking glasses that were present in further attempts to conceal the prints on the glasses.”
Castro and Miller then allegedly left Young’s residence, got in Miller’s vehicle that was parked on the street “and that’s all the further they got,” Helmer said.
Helmer said Miller eventually called 911, and law enforcement and first responders arrived. Helmer said authorities reported finding Castro attempting to “render aid” to Young, who was taken to a Bismarck hospital by medical helicopter.
Wenko argued that the charge should be murder because Castro “caused the death of another human being under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life” when he shot Young. McCabe argued that Castro did care.
“There’s nothing extreme about this,” McCabe said. “They were two friends who were playing with a gun. This simply was an accident. It went off. He didn’t expect it to go off. He was purely hoping and praying that it didn’t go off. That’s not extreme indifference to the value of human life. That’s an accident.”
The next hearing in the case has not been scheduled.