A murder-suicide involving a former Barona employee and a gaming commission manager left both men dead in the gaming commission building behind the Barona Valley Ranch Resort and Casino off Wildcat Canyon Road in Lakeside on Tuesday, Dec. 29.
Because many Ramona residents work at Barona, tension spread through the community, particularly when early reports said the incident was a possible hostage situation. Neither of the two men involved lived in Ramona.
The former Barona employee, 38-year-old Donnell Roberts of El Cajon, entered the gaming commission office armed with a shotgun about 10 a.m., the sheriff’s department reported. He ordered the employees, with the exception of one man, gaming commission executive director Raymundo Castillas, 43, out of the building. Immediately after, several gunshots were heard.
Sheriff’s deputies and Barona security officers surrounded the building and called for the sheriff’s Special Enforcement Detail. In addition, hostage negotiators and officers with the California Highway Patrol responded to the scene.
Unable to make contact with Roberts or Castillas for several hours, officials used a robot to determine that both men were dead. According to the sheriff’s department, Roberts fatally shot Castillas and then killed himself.
“This is a very difficult time for the Barona family, and our thoughts and prayers to out to the families of this unimaginable tragedy,” the Barona Gaming Commission said in a statement released on Dec. 30.
According to the statement, Roberts had been fired in November from his job as a compliance officer for the gaming commission and, prior to that, he was a security guard at the Barona Resort and Casino.
“While there are no words to describe how horrible this incident was, we want to express our deep gratitude to the Barona Security Department, the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, the California Highway Patrol, Barona Tribal Enforcement and the Barona Fire Department for their quick response,” stated the commission.
Barona’s Employee Assistance Program and the sheriff’s department provided grief counseling.