Three San Marcos Police officers, including two veterans and a rookie, are following in their fathers’ footsteps in their service with the San Marcos Police Department.
Commander Chase Stapp, Officer Jesse Guerra III, and Officer Daniel (DJ) Castillo all entered law enforcement inspired by their fathers. Their dads- Sgt. Ed Stapp, Sgt. Jesse Guerra, Jr., and Officer Jimmy Castillo–preceded them in the department from 1969 through 2001.
The six officers-past and present-gathered earlier this month at the San Marcos Police Department to reflect on the unique circumstances of having fathers and sons serve the people of San Marcos in law enforcement.
Ed and Chase Stapp
Chase Stapp has early memories of his father’s career at the San Marcos Police Department. As a five-year-old, he attended the grand opening of the new Police Station, now the Grant Harris, Jr. parks building. Chase saw a funny looking lever he thought was the mail slot-so he pulled on it-setting off the fire alarm.
Since it was a new building, Chase recalls that not even the firefighters who rushed to the scene had a key to turn it off.
Despite that spectacular beginning, Chase grew up inspired by his father, Ed Stapp. and his career in law enforcement.
Ed Stapp had to overcome obstacles to become a police officer. His small stature disqualified him for years from being accepted into major departments. “I was always told I could never become a police officer. But I always thought it was the most useful and constructive thing I could do. I was determined to break into police work,” Ed Stapp said.
Stapp found his way in by joining the Austin Police Department as a dispatcher. He was hired at SMPD in May of 1970 and stayed a decade with the department, reaching the rank of sergeant.
Until his senior year at San Marcos High School, Chase Stapp was opposed to a future in police work. He’d seen the long hours, the shift work and the pay that “was not so good.” But then he began to realize that the values he shared with his father were the same values shared by police officers.
“When I was a sophomore in college, I realized it was my calling,” Chase said.
“I didn’t try to encourage him,” Ed remembers. “I was extremely proud and still am. He has always applied himself throughout his career.”
Chase joined SMPD in 1992 and rose through the ranks where he has served as a training officer, narcotics officer, background investigator and night shift patrol officer. In June 2008, he was promoted to Commander, where he now is in charge of the night shift. Ed Stapp today works at the Hays County Justice Center.
The Stapp family has distinguished itself with an unusual hobby-stock car racing at Thunderhill Raceway in Kyle. Chase’s brother Cary, a local electrician, won the 2008 ASA Member Track National championship-in a Stapp built race car.
Jesse II and Jesse III Guerra
Jesse Guerra, Jr., grew up along the S an Marcos River in a home at what is now Rio Vista Park. After six years in the Marines, he came home to look for a job. He had a choice-the San Marcos Police Department at $360 a month or at a local restaurant for considerably more. He chose law enforcement.
Guerra joined the San Marcos Police Department in 1969 and stayed until 2001-at 32 years, one of the longest tenured officers in the department.
Like Ed Stapp and Jimmy Costilla, he joined the SMPD when the headquarters was an add-on to the old City Hall Building on Guadalupe Street-now Texas State University’s Fire Station Studios. He moved with the department to the new police station in 1973-now the parks headquarters.
When he started, Jesse Jr. said the department had a chief, two detectives, six patrol officers and three police cars. Officers worked six days a week. Guerra started the Blue Santa program in San Marcos, a great gift to needy children at Christmas time, and worked patrol, investigations, and administration during his career. Jesse Jr. also supervised records and animal control.
“I grew up with law enforcement and it was what I knew how to do,” says his son, Jesse III. “I would ride with him and enjoyed it.” A 1988 San Marcos High School graduate, Jesse III enrolled at the University of Texas and later at Texas State University as a physics major-and a criminal justice minor.
His dad did not want him to become a police officer. But that didn’t stick either with Jesse III or his brother John- who is in charge of communications at UPD at Texas State University. “I told them not to…they wouldn’t get rich that way. It was a hard job with long hours and low pay,” said Jesse, Jr. “But I never tried to stop them.”
The criminal justice classes he took in college “came naturally” to Jesse III. He first joined the Hays County Sheriff’s Office as a deputy, where he worked for six years, and then joined the San Marcos Police Department in1995. Nepotism rules-his dad’s employment and his uncle, Fred Guerra’s service on the City Council -delayed his hiring at SMPD.
Now assigned to the evening shift, Jesse III is finishing up his degree at Texas State-with a double major in psychology and criminal justice. He will graduate in spring 2009.
Jesse Guerra Jr. retired from SMPD in 2001 and today works at the Hays County Justice Center.
Jimmy and Daniel (DJ) Castillo
For Daniel “DJ” Castillo, joining the San Marcos Police Department has been a circuitous path, including a nine year stint as a computer software and mapping technician with the Hays County Appraisal District. His recent career choice meant going against the advice of his father and even a slight name change-since the department already has a Danny Castillo, a motorcycle cop with SMPD.
Jimmy Castillo, a well known auto service manager for the last 28 years at Chuck Nash Chevrolet, served as a San Marcos police officer from April 1970 to December 1974.
A native of Beeville, Jimmy started thinking about a career in enforcement when he was in high school after attending a job fair with the local police department. A month after graduating in 1967, however, he was drafted and joined the U.S. Army. When his military service was over, he was invited by a high school friend, Ray Gutierrez, a former sheriff’s deputy in Hays County, to come to San Marcos rather than take a job in Dallas.
“Luciano Flores (a former mayor) convinced me to stay here,” Jimmy said. Castillo went through the Alamo Area Law Enforcement Academy and joined the San Marcos Police Department in April 1970. He worked the midnight shift with Sgt. Ed Stapp back in the early 1970s-when there were four people who worked a shift, “including the sergeant.”
After a few years, however, the low pay moved Jimmy Castillo entirely out of law enforcement, establishing a new career in the automobile business.
When Danny grew up, Jimmy encouraged him to seek another vocation other than law enforcement or the military. DJ enrolled at Angelo State University, majoring in computer science with a minor in criminal justice. He transferred to Texas State for a degree in engineering. After leaving school he worked at a pharmacy and Electro Source before joining the Central Appraisal District.
“But I always wanted to be a police officer,” he said. “I got tired of being cooped up inside pushing a mouse around.”
He worked out for months to get in shape and finally broke the news to his parents while they were shopping at Wal-Mart for a treadmill. His mother, Paula Castillo, was not happy. “As long as there’s not a motorcycle involved…” she said.
DJ is a graduate of the SMPD’s Citizen Police Academy-and that experience convinced him that he wanted to become a police officer in San Marcos. After completing the Police Academy earlier this year and field training, Costilla says, “this place is awesome. It’s a great place to work! I want to retire from here.”
As for his father, Jimmy Castillo sees a 1000% improvement in the police department. “The fundamentals of law enforcement are the same, but safety is definitely better, as well as the training, technology and professionalism.”
DJ can barely contain his enthusiasm. “It’s a blast,” he said of working the midnight shift on patrol. “I can’t wait to get back on the street.”
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