Campus bus bandit busted

Sean Irwin

Christopher Castillo, accused of robbing a 14-year-old bus passenger at knifepoint near Saddleback College on Sept. 3, pled not guilty of all charges at the Harbor Justice Center last Friday, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.

Orange County Sheriffs arrested Castillo Sept. 10 after spotting him at a Saddleback bus stop on Marguerite and College Drive.At 7:40 a.m. Sept. 3, the 14-year-old victim reported to police that the suspect had sat next to him on an Orange County Transportation Authority bus, brandished a knife, and took his iPod. Police believe the suspect attempted to pressure the victim not to report the crime.

The suspect was allegedly unaware that his bus was one of the 20 percent of OCTA busses equipped with security cameras. The suspect exited the bus at Moulton and Crown Valley, but not before providing his “crystal clear video” image for the bus’s seven surveillance cameras, OC Sheriff’s Department spokesman Jim Amormino said.

The OCTA security footage showed the suspect boarding the bus near Saddleback. He lingered at the front, apparently soliciting other passengers for bus fare. Authorities report that the suspect told the bus driver he was due for a court appearance and could go to jail if he missed his appointment. After this, the video shows the suspect sitting down next to a fellow passenger. He turns to face the victim, but the camera angle is insufficient to show the alleged knife used during the robbery. The suspect can be seen shoving an object resembling the victim’s iPod, into his pocket.

The suspect “is not involved with Saddleback in any way,” Saddleback Police Chief Harry Parmer said.

Castillo’s ex-girlfriend lived nearby, Amormino said, and this may be the reason he was on Saddleback campus in the first place.

Orange County Sheriffs gathered information about the suspect by canvassing a nearby apartment complex and collecting tips from the public based on the released OCTA security footage. Police driving near Saddleback bus stops spotted and arrested Castillo at 5:40 p.m.

Whether Castillo was indeed heading for a court appointment when he boarded the bus Sept. 3 has not been verified, but he is due to be in court Sept. 17, after being in custody at the Central Men’s Jail since his Sept. 10 arrest. The District Attorney’s office reports that Castillo is due for an 8:30 a.m. pretrial hearing at the Harbor Justice Center today, and a preliminary hearing Sept. 22.

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