Friday 20 April 2018

'He was a child, he wasn't involved in anything bad' - Ireland's rising MMA star on how his innocent brother (10) was shot dead

This week, Independent.ie is running a series on personal experiences around end of life. Here, MMA fighter Jeanderson Castro tells how his innocent ten-year-old brother was killed by gunfire in Salvador, Brazil over six years ago.

Jeanderson Castro. Photo: Cooper's MMA
Jeanderson Castro. Photo: Cooper's MMA
Geraldine Gittens

Geraldine Gittens

Jeanderson Castro, one of Ireland’s promising mixed martial arts stars, bears a big tattoo on the base of his back.

That’s far from unusual of course, tattoos are de rigeur now, particularly in sport.

But this tattoo is a sketch of a smiling young boy, and Jeanderson regularly is asked who this little boy is.

“My brother Joel – he was only 10 years old. He was a little child, he never got involved in anything bad,” Jeanderson tells Independent.ie.

“He [the shooter] could see by the shadows on the windows that Joel was just a kid.”

Joel (10) was shot dead at his home on November 21, 2011 in a random attack. The bullet came from the street outside, in through his bedroom window, and hit him in the head.

Jeanderson Castro with his father Joel in Brazil.
Jeanderson Castro with his father Joel in Brazil.

Gun violence on the streets of Salvador in Brazil, the twentieth most violent city in the world, had claimed another child victim.

“I was on a trip with my friends in Brazil and when I came back home Joel asked me how was my holiday, I said ‘good, I had a good time with my friends’.”

“I went to bed, and we started to hear faraway sounds of shooting. He was asking me 'what was that?' I said ‘I think it’s fireworks’. And then I said ‘get back to bed, get back to bed, everything will be OK’.”

“That was the last time I spoke to him.”

“After that he got back to his room; he was scared of the situation that was happening but he turned off the lights. The moment that he went to turn off the lights, [someone] shot my brother.”

“My dad came running to my room: 'Jean, Jean Jean, it’s your brother'.”

Jeanderson Castro with his father Joel in Brazil.
Jeanderson Castro with his father Joel in Brazil.

“We ran into his room. He was there on the ground already. The bullet got into his face and the back of his head.”

“The only thing I could do was carry him out... 'dad we need to go to the hospital’. He was still breathing.”

But little Joel finally succumbed.

He recalls: “In the hospital they cleaned my brother’s face, and cleaned the blood off him. The doctor said he’s still alive, but I don’t know for how long. My mother just lost the power in her legs and she fell on the floor.”

“I wasn’t crying because I was in shock. I knew at the moment I was the only one who could support my family, then the doctor came and said, ‘Jeanderson, I need to talk to you’.”

“He said ‘you’re brother couldn’t survive’. I started crying, I put my hands on my head, and didn’t know what to say. I said 'I will tell my family but I need to see my brother first'. I saw my brother and I saw he had been crying. ‘He was crying?’ I asked. ‘Yeah he was, but he is gone.'”

“I held my mother’s and my father’s hand and told them, and said we need to be strong to face this situation. My dad fell on the ground and was crying.”

“Mam was in shock and she couldn’t talk for hours.”

Jeanderson’s family are still seeking justice for Joel's killing back home. Four years ago, with his father's support, Jeanderson packed his bags for Ireland, anxious to leave Salvador behind.

He craved a better life, and believed he wouldn’t find it in Salvador.

The still-raw loss of his brother drives Jeanderson today in Ireland. Signed up to BAMMA to fight in the Three Arena on May 12th, his goal is eventually getting signed to the UFC.

“I’ve done martial arts my whole life, and my whole family is involved in sport and community to help people come off the streets. My father teaches capoeira. I did jiu jitsu as well.”

“After the situation with my brother, I said my life is finished. But the sport showed me that anything is possible. I use the sport to bring good times to my life, and to show people it’s never too late.”

“My father told me ‘no one said it’s going to be easy. You have to do this for your brother, you have to do this for you.'”

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