A Hispanic man from the Bronx faced immense hardship over the past several years, only to suffer the ultimate tragedy last weekend. Baraquiel Castelan, 32, spent over two years wrongfully incarcerated at Rikers Island until his release a few months ago. This past Saturday, Castelan was stabbed to death outside of a Bronx bar, leaving behind two young daughters and numerous grieving family members seeking justice.
According to civil attorney Christopher Fitzgerald, Castelan was “swept up in the apparatus and went through the nightmare of being locked up on Rikers Island” for a crime he did not actually commit. During his 27-month imprisonment, Castelan endured significant trauma, including having his head stabbed by a fellow inmate.
“This experience really traumatized him…He was a guy who worked, and just because of this unfortunate set of circumstances he was swept up in the apparatus and went through the nightmare of being locked up on Rikers Island,” said Fitzgerald.
Upon his release, Castelan struggled to reconnect with his family, including his oldest daughter, who was three years old at the time and didn’t recognize her own father after his long absence.
A Life Cut Short
Just months after gaining his freedom, Castelan’s life came to a tragic end outside El Chicanito bar in the Melrose section of the Bronx. In the early morning hours last Saturday, Castelan became involved in a dispute which turned violent. One of the assailants stabbed Castelan in the neck, arm, and chest, then fled the scene. Castelan was transported to Lincoln Hospital but could not be saved.
Castelan’s grieving family is now seeking justice and accountability for his senseless murder. His younger sister Olivia, 29, made an emotional plea:
“All we want is for the person who did it to pay,” she said. “My nieces and nephews looked up to him as a father figure and I just want justice for my brother. He didn’t deserve to die like that.”
The NYPD released photos of a suspect and is asking the public for any information that could lead to an arrest. The family also questioned why El Chicanito bar remains open after the fatal violence that occurred there.
A Devoted Family Man
Those closest to Castelan described him as a devoted father to his two daughters, ages 1 and 9, and a steadying presence for his family, particularly after his father was killed in Mexico last year. His mother, Juana Lopez, fled Mexico after receiving death threats, returning to New York just last December. After his father’s murder, Castelan stepped up to lead his family during an unimaginably difficult period.
Tragically, after enduring years of injustice and trauma, Castelan had his life stolen just as he was getting back on his feet. His family remains shattered, clinging to memories of his warmth and hoping at least some justice may still be served. The tragic story illustrates the ripple effects injustice can have, devastating not just the individual initially targeted, but entire families left grieving in its wake.