Jaime Castillo, a Santa Clarita resident who belonged to David Koresh's Branch Davidian church in Waco, Texas, and was among nine survivors of the 1993 federal raid on the cult compound, has died.
Castillo, 40, lived and worked in Santa Clarita for the past two years after serving 13 years in prison on charges related to the standoff. He died of hepatitis C and liver failure at Olive View-UCLA Medical Center in Sylmar on Friday, according to friends and family.
Castillo was a young aspiring musician in the San Gabriel Valley in the late 1980s when he answered a local ad for a band seeking a drummer. The ad had been placed by Koresh, who was later to become leader of the cult that engaged federal agents in a 51-day standoff.
"Jaime liked rock and roll, and Koresh had a rock and roll band," said Ernie Rodriquez, a friend of Castillo since childhood. "At first, it was just all about music. He really didn't even know David Koresh's background."
"But over time, Koresh started preaching to him. And Jamie just got sucked into the religious aspect."
At the time, Rodriquez said, Koresh's influence seemed to be a positive one, as Castillo stopped drinking alcohol and began jogging and other activities to improve himself.
According to news reports, Koresh at one time tried to establish a music career in Hollywood during the 1980s, even as he became more involved in the Branch Davidian church.
He later moved to Texas with band members and followers and eventually took control of the church after an internal power struggle.
The standoff began in February 1993 after federal agents attempted to serve a search warrant based on tips about stockpiling of weapons at the compound. Four agents and six Davidians died when gunfire was exchanged during the raid.
A subsequent FBI siege ended on April 19 when agents assaulted the compound with tanks and tear gas. The battle and ensuing fire resulted in the deaths of 76 people, including Koresh and 21 children.
Attorney General Janet Reno faced heavy criticism for authorizing the assault, although federal agents said they were concerned for the safety of the children inside and the possibility Koresh would lead his followers to a mass suicide.
Survivors of the sect, including Castillo, were later placed on trial for weapons charges and voluntary manslaughter. His initial prison sentence was for 40 years, but the U.S. Supreme Court later reduced it and Castillo was freed on parole in 2006.
"He always maintained his innocence," Rodriquez said. "After he got out, he always said `I didn't do what they accused me of.' He told me the most he should've been convicted of is for resisting arrest."
Even after prison, Castillo remained a friendly, likable guy who still loved music, friends and family said.
He was "very easygoing, very fun-loving," said his brother, Luis Castillo, who lives in Montebello. "Happy-go-lucky. He loved music. He was always joking around with everybody. A very easy, mellow personality."
While in prison, he liked to read and earned a certificate in physical training. After his release, he landed a job at a fitness center in Santa Clarita.
After prison, "He was happy to put that behind him and just start his life," Luis Castillo said.
Rebecca Pe a, a Pasadena resident who knew Castillo since their teen years, said his experiences in Waco and prison didn't change him a bit.
"He was just always cracking a joke," Pe a said. "No matter what the situation was he made light of it and he was just really a neat guy. Somebody that you could just hang with and felt like you knew for a long time."
Castillo is survived by his brothers, Edward and Luis, sister, Leticia, mother, Victoria Beltran, and father, Raynel.