PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — In a drab, quiet hallway down in the basement of Philadelphia Police headquarters, you’ll find an office that stands out among the rest. Inside is an officer with a talent that brings joy during a time of great pain.
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Philadelphia Police Officer Jonny Castro spent nine years patrolling the streets of the city. Now he’s painting portraits of fallen firefighters, police officers, and members of the military.
“Some of the stories about how they were killed are just horrendous,” he told Eyewitness News.
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Castro’s most recent work is a portrait of 42-year-old Philadelphia Fire Lieutenant Matthew LeTourneau. He was 11-year-veteran with Philadelphia Fire who was trying to save people at a North Colorado street home early Saturday morning. Wind chills were in the single digits.
“You hear about what happened to him and how they worked for 30 minutes to free him and they never left his side. It was a pretty emotional story,” Castro said.
Castro has painted more than 150 officers and six homicide victims since 2016. His reach touches many countries.
“I’ve done police officers from Australia, Great Britain…Paris. I’ve done one from Canada. If I see something in the news about it and there are some decent pictures and photographs of them, I’ll try to get something done and ship it overseas to them,” Castro said.
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He pays for it all out of pocket. Each day at the office, he sketches composites of suspects, but the portraits of the fallen are done in his free time.
He takes great pride in every portrait. He’s never met one of his subjects, but that doesn’t matter. His job is to comfort family and friends.
“It’s good to know that in the end, that somebody they know is going to be getting these portraits,” Castro said.