Real Life Combat: Jewelry Store Shootout

A jewelry store owner recently defended himself and his wife:

In the back room of a humble jewelry store and pawn shop in Houston’s East End Thursday afternoon, a gunman tied Eva Castillo’s wrists tightly — too tightly. She complained of the pain, so he loosened the bindings. Then Castillo’s husband was ordered at gunpoint to put his hands behind his back.

But Ramon Castillo had a surprise for the gunman and two cohorts, who had announced they were robbing the business.

Castillo pulled a pistol from his waistband and shot the gunman dead. Then he grabbed a shotgun from his office and engaged in a shootout with the other two armed robbers.

When it was over, all three robbers were dead — and Castillo, though shot at least three times, was still standing, having successfully defended what was rightfully his.

It was the third time his shop, Castillo’s Jewelry at 4502 Canal at Super Street, had been robbed since it opened 22 years ago, East End residents said.

Castillo, 52, apparently did not immediately realize he had been shot, officers said. He walked outside the store and looked around for more gunmen, then went back inside the business, realized he was wounded and untied his 48-year-old wife, who was unharmed, said Houston Police Department homicide investigator M.F. “Fil” Waters.

Investigators said so many shots were fired inside the jewelry shop in a two- or three-minute span that they could not estimate the number of rounds. “We’ve got bullet fragments all over the place, casings all over the place, shotgun slugs all over the place, so it’s really hard to determine at this point how many rounds were actually fired – but quite a few,” Waters said.

They said Castillo protects his store like a fortress, using an electronic door to buzz customers in and out. Customers are locked inside the store until they leave. Numerous video cameras are inside. “He’s done everything he can do to secure his business,” Waters said.

“Somebody would have to be stupid to come rob the place because of the way it’s set up,” said a 30-year-old East End resident who would not give his name. “Everybody in the neighborhood knows how it is – everybody knows once you get in, he has to let you out. When you walk in, he buzzes you in, and when you walk out, he has to buzz you out.”


1) Note that all of the non-violent measures (buzzers, bars, video cameras, etc.) were not enough. Keep this in mind. You’re constantly being told to “Be alert,” to report suspicious activity, to lock your doors, and so on, which are not necessarily bad ideas, but somehow arming yourself is never mentioned.

2) He did not allow himself to be tied up. Had he and his wife been tied up, the article might have been about the discovery of two bound bodies at a pawn shop.

3) He had a big gun. How does a guy defeat 3 men armed with pistols (outside of an action movie)? He had a shotgun. I’ve never owned a shotgun, but I’ve begun to consider it.

4) In the heat of the moment, you may not realize the extent of your injuries. I’m a believer in being very watchful for a knife. It is too easy to be stabbed and cut without realizing it.


8 Responses to “Real Life Combat: Jewelry Store Shootout”

  1. Chaos can find anyone at anytime, that much is fact. That was some hell of a fire fight .. and I am sure the shot gun turned the tides, that and a hard heart and stoic resolve not to be a victim of these morons. Kudos to the owner…he banged back and took care of his own. More bad guys on slabs is always a good thing. And your right mate..if they would have allowed themselves to be harnessed up like some pig for slaughter then what you say would have happened…they would be dead.

  2. If you’re interested in owning and using a shotgun, a good place to start is with a 12 gauge pump action. A variety of brands and models exist, with Mossberg probably the most common for self defense. My preference for a pump after 55 years of experience with many varieties, would be the Ithaca Model 37. It, and many others makes and models, are usually readily available as used guns at stores and gun shows, at very reasonable prices.

    You might visit some shotgun shooting ranges (trap, skeet, etc), and ask the shooters about their guns. Very likely you will be invited to try out some of their guns! Cowboy action shooting matches are also popular, and you would see a variety of pumps and double barrel side by side guns.

    You won’t know what you prefer until you try out and actually use a variety of guns. There’s nothing like a surprise grouse flush beneath you feet to find out how well (or not) you can get your gun into action and place a good shot before the bird disappears into the brush.

    Old Dave

  3. Dave,

    I’ve read that the pump is a throwback to days of paper shells, when pumping action might be necessary to free a deformed shell. In light of this, an automatic shotgun is preferable. (This is like the old revolver vs. automatic debate.)

    What do you say?

    • The trouble with semi-automatic (auto-loading) shotguns is they can be finicky. Not all ammo works, if there’s a malfunction it’s more work to remedy. Sure, they have a simpler manual of arms in the general sense (“point and click” vs. “point, click, rack”), but there’s just more stuff that risks going wrong. Pump shotguns are more open to the type of ammo, and things going wrong… e.g. what if in the fight it got dropped in the mud?

      Consider firearms trainers like Greg Hamilton from Insights Training Center, Tom Givens from Rangemaster… for them, if you are going to go shotgun, go with a pump.

      But in the end, what you pick is what works best for your situation. For instance, yes to work a pump shotgun you need to train with it to ensure cycling the action works, no short-stroking, etc.. For someone perhaps less willing to train regularly, a semi-auto may be better since most people grok “point and click”. Semi-autos are also better at absorbing recoil.

      On that note, if you are considering a shotgun for home/office defense, consider using low-recoil 00 buckshot. 00 buck is your best bet as a self-defense ammo, and using low recoil is “good enough” for home/office defense situations with the advantage of less recoil thus faster follow-up shots. Of course, if you did use low-recoil in a semi-auto shotgun, you best ensure it reliably cycles the gun. Whatever ammo you choose, you MUST take it to the range and pattern it: a particular ammo load in a particular gun… each gun and each type of ammo can behave differently (e.g. Federal 00 buck in this Mossberg 500 might not act the same as the exact same ammo in another Mossberg 500). You’ll need to ensure the patterning is acceptable out to the maximum distance you could shoot. Federal’s buckshot with the “flite control” wad is really good at keeping a tight pattern.

      In terms of models, the Remington 870 and Mossberg 500 get a lot of love, esp. the Remington. Many many parts and 3rd party modifications that can be done to suit the shotgun to your needs. Choosing between the two? I probably would have gone with the Remington because it’s more widely supported, but I ended up with Mossberg because the tang-safety allows for amidextrous use (which is relevant in my household).

      I’d also recommend Rangemaster’s DVD on defensive shotgunning. If you’ve never owned a shotgun and are considering it, especially for such “social” purposes, that DVD is fantastic at getting you started from ground zero.

      (I have trained with Tom Givens and he’s a proven and excellent firearms instructor).

      Hope this helps. 🙂

  4. Hsoi,

    Thanks for the in-depth info.

    My dad was a retired CHP officer, and an episode ingrained in everyone’s minds (it was a staple of training) was the notorious Newhall incident, in which it is believed an officer under the stress of the shootout frantically worked the pump action, and ejected live rounds onto the pavement. (Wikipedia says one live round was ejected)

    • Yeah… you never know exactly what one will do under stress. Still, the plural of anecdote isn’t data, and pumps have worked well for many people in many situations.

      In the end, you have to pick what works best for you and your situation. Me? While there’s something nice about a shotgun, my personal preference for a home/office defensive gun is a rifle. Your M4-patterned rifle with proper .223/5.56×45 ammo is purpose-built for this very sort of engagement situation. Something to think about: criminal busts in, holds a loved one hostage, now the criminal is in close proximity to the loved one… you’ve got a shotgun but you’re 15 yards away… do you feel comfortable taking that shot? can you ensure all pellets hit the bad guy and not your loved one (and no stray pellets fly risking hitting other things be it property or innocent people)? Now change the situation to having a good rifle with a quality red-dot optic, now how about taking that shot to save the life of your loved one?

  5. Well, for starters, my preference is an autoloader for home defense and deer hunting.

    The pump action is the least expensive and considered more reliable, and usually lighter and slimmer. It is the more commonly used shotgun by police…not just the price, but also the ability to use various special shells, like rubber pellet loads that would not cycle an autoloader. The military uses autoloaders, but some new versions by Benelli are “convertible”, to allow both automatic generally, and pumping for special loads.

    The biggest problem with the pump is the failure to fully eject the spent shell (“short shucking”) and trying to push the forestock forward to load the next round…operator error and a major jam! It’s all too easy to happen when under some stress and in a hurry up mode. An autoloader requires a higher level of maintenance to prevent jamming problems, but given a clean action and the right loads I think that it is much more reliable in a stressful situation.

    If I were to buy a “best” new self defense shotgun, it would be the Benelli M2 Tactical…about $1300.

    Or for starters, you could go with a used 12 gauge pump for about $2-300, and figure out through some experience what works best for you.

  6. Personally I find they both have there place. I run the Remington 870 pump as well as the new FN Police Auto Loader ( a cadillac of semi auto shottys)…hell I even rock a side by side coach gun. Tools are tools . . it is the man behind the trigger and his abilities that win the day….Know and understand your tools . . train with them often. Transition, Transition, Transition……

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