News Column

Innocent woman killed by Orlando officer's stray bullet was on weekend trip with friends

August 20, 2014

By Tiffany Walden, Orlando Sentinel



Aug. 20--Like most Millennials, Maria loved partying and hanging out with her friends.

So she took a weekend girls trip to Orlando, visiting some of the theme parks, before ending up at Vixen Bar in downtown Orlando sometime Monday night, family said.

The 22-year-old woman -- identified by police as Maria Fernanda Godinez but also known as Maria Castillo -- wouldn't make the return trip home to Cocoa with her friends.

She was shot by an Orlando officer's stray bullet about 12:45 a.m. Tuesday during the police's struggle with a gun-wielding man outside the bar on South Orange Avenue between Pine and Church streets.

She was pronounced dead at an area hospital.

She was born in Guatemala. But she grew up in Cocoa, according to her cousin, Norma Godinez, 34.

Her death left her family and friends in shock.

"Until I see her body, I can't realize this is true," Norma Godinez said Wednesday. "We feel shock. I don't get it. I cannot believe what's going on."

She was described by her cousin as a happy person who was fun to be around.

"She is my family. What can I say?" she said. "She was a very good friend, very good cousin."

As people close to the young woman learned about her death, an outpouring of grief began on her Facebook page.

Distraught friends and relatives changed their profile photos to images of black ribbons; a symbol of remembrance or mourning.

One friend, Arielle Smith, 24, posted on victim's page: "Why did this have to happen to you?"

She said it hurts to talk about her friend, but was willing to talk via Facebook chat. Smith said they've been friends for four years.

"Maria was one of the greatest people I've ever met, a wonderful friend, and what happened to her is unfair," she said through a private Facebook message.

Police responded to the scene early Tuesday after receiving 911 calls about a man -- later identified as 23-year-old Kody Roach -- who was banging on the front door of the club with a handgun, officials said.

"I got a guy in front of a club waving a gun around," one 911 caller said, while sitting at the Corona Cigar Company across from Vixen Bar at 12:43 a.m.

"There's people coming out of the club right now. He's like banging on the door with a gun," the caller continued.

Once police arrived, the caller pointed them toward the suspect. But the call ended shortly after that.

According to court records, officers used a stun gun on Roach when he didn't comply with their demands.

The Taser didn't affect Roach, though, officers said.

Roach then lifted his shirt and began reaching toward his waistband. That's when officers fired nine shots at Roach, "striking him several times," an arrest report said.

Roach was taken to an area hospital in critical condition.

Police Lt. Frank Nunez, a 19-year veteran, was shot in the leg. How that happened has not been explained.

An investigation is ongoing.

According to Police Chief John Mina, two other officers involved in the shooting -- Jeff Angel and Eduardo Sanguino -- are on paid administrative leave.

It was a bullet from Sanguino's gun that mortally wounded the woman, officials said.

"Again, nothing we can say today takes away the pain that Maria's friends and family are feeling, and we ask the community to keep her friends and family in their thoughts and prayers," Mina said during a Tuesday press conference.

Roach faces a charge of carrying a concealed firearm.

Other charges, including possible felony murder, are pending.

He is being treated at Orlando Regional Medical Center.

twalden@tribune.com, or 407-420-5620

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(c)2014 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)

Visit The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.) at www.OrlandoSentinel.com

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Source: Orlando Sentinel (FL)


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