The widow and children of slain Miami-Dade officer Roger Castillo helped narcotics detectives hand out Christmas presents to children Friday, including the same area in which Castillo was killed in January while apprehending a murder suspect.
"For them it was very moving," Miami-Dade Det. Alvaro Zabaleta told HuffPost Miami. "And it's a very strong message they're sending out: just because you have bad people in the community, doesn't mean the community is bad."
That message was behind the annual two-day, two-fold "Operation Santa's Helper" sweep that concluded Friday, Zabaleta said. On Thursday Miami-Dade narcotics officers arrested 112 people across Northwest Miami-Dade, and on Friday they and fellow officer Debbie Castillo and her three sons Anthony, 16, Michael, 13, and Bryan, 10, gave 500 gifts to needy kids in the most crime-infected areas, all donated by narcotics detectives and elementary school children.
“I just wanted them to see, in spite of everything, how fortunate they are,” Debbie Castillo said of her boys to CBSMiami.
Zabaleta told HuffPost the purpose of Operation Santa's Helper is to get trouble-makers off the streets so children can experience a more safe and better Christmas.
"[Offenders] won't be out by Christmas, so everybody can enjoy the holiday," he said. "The officers from the Narcotics Bureau, day in and day out they're in this neighborhood. The kids are surrounded by this drug activity."
The 112 people arrested included 9 career criminals and offenders with histories including homicide, sexual battery, assault, robbery, drug possession, and abduction, among other charges. Some were apprehended in the same area that officers Roger Castillo and Amanda Haworth died January 20 in a shootout as members of a highly-trained four-person warrant squad sent to arrest violent fugitive and career criminal Johnny Sims.
Sims, 22, was shot and killed by police, but not before the incident became the first since 1988 -- and the agency was still known as Metro Dade Police -- that two officers were lost in the line of duty on the same day and same case, according to NBCMiami.
Castillo, who was 41 when he was killed, met his wife on the job when he was assigned to train her as a rookie.
"We have to do our job," Debbie Castillo told CBSMiami. "But we care, and that’s what we’re going to try and show everybody today.”