North Texas

Students Paint Mural for Fallen Grand Prairie Police Officer

The community continues to honor the life of fallen Grand Prairie police officer A.J. Castaneda.

For most of Tuesday, two young students painted a mural to honor his life.

Castaneda, a 5-year veteran of the Grand Prairie Police Department, died Friday after he was struck by a car while working a speed enforcement patrol on the President George Bush Turnpike. The driver of the car which struck him appeared to lose control of the vehicle.

A tent with a large canvas underneath sat outside Grand Prairie police headquarters just beyond its growing memorial.

"We're feeling the love and the support and the prayers from the community," Grand Prairie Police Chief Steve Dye said. "It's really helped us to remain resilient."

The art piece is an expression of appreciation made by the Najar sisters.

"I just hope they enjoy it," Heavenly Najar said.

They said the mural is for Castaneda's family.

"Basically it's just going to be a portrait of him and the American flag over here and then over there is the blue-striped flag," Najar said.

Both girls are students at Grand Prairie Fine Arts Academy.

Dye said the idea to honor Castaneda came from their teacher, who has family in law enforcement.

"For us to be here, it means to honor the officer, Castaneda," Grand Prairie Fine Arts Academy Sculpture Director Joaquin Soto said. "He was a great officer and we want to just give something back to the community."

"Even though I didn't know him, I really appreciated the service that he did for our city, for our community," Najar said. "That he took care of people."

For the members of the police department who are grieving the loss of their brother, they said the outpouring of support filled their hearts with gratitude.

"We cannot express enough our thanks to not only the Grand Prairie community, but all of North Texas and beyond for really reaching out, offering their assistance," Dye said. "It means the world to us."

And for these students, who are using their art to say thank you for  Castaneda's service, "it just means a lot to be able to give back," Najar said.

GPPD is getting ready for Castaneda's visitation, which is scheduled for Wednesday, and his funeral Thursday at 11 a.m. at The Potter's House. It will be a public service.

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