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Witness to fatal Kroger shooting: ‘I was so close I felt the heat off the bullet’

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- When Tina Baker walked out of the restroom at the rear of the Kroger Store at Southern Plaza last Friday night, she first heard and then saw two men in a loud disagreement.

“They’re arguing over a cell phone. The guy who killed the guy was wanting the man’s cell phone. The man wouldn’t come off his cell phone,” she recalled.

Carlos Castro, 43, died of gunshot and stab wounds in the dairy aisle of the grocery store. Jason Cooper, 37, admitted to police he had taken methamphetamine before the killing.

Cooper appeared in court Wednesday morning to be formally charged with murder.

Baker watched Castro’s killing from no more than ten feet away as she said Cooper wanted the other man’s cell phone.

“He wasn’t coming up off his cell phone,” Baker remembered. “He said, ‘Man, just stop, you’re not getting it,’ and he had his hands up like this, you know, trying to get the guy away from him and then all of a sudden the guy just started stabbing him.”

A store employee told IMPD investigators that just before the attack, Cooper asked where he could find the kitchen knife display and another shopper spotted the knife in Cooper’s belt in the store’s restroom.

“He started stabbing him,” said Baker, “and the guy just fell, fell into whatever was in the display in the aisle and the guy just started shooting him.”

Baker doesn’t know where Cooper got the firearm but police said Castro had an empty holster on his waist and his family said the father of three was a responsible and legal gun owner.

“I believe he took it from the other guy because the other guy didn’t have a chance to do anything,” said Baker. “When I seen his hands up like this, there was nothing in his hands. He was just trying to get that guy to stop. He was telling him, ‘Stop. You’re not getting my cell phone.’"

“The guy that ended up on the floor…at that time the man didn’t have a chance,” said Baker.

Baker said that while she believed the stab wounds to Castro were fatal, she watched Cooper execute the shopper after he was down.

“He just started shooting him and then he puts his foot on his chest and just shoots him one more time and walks out. There was three bullets. Three times he shot in the store.

“I was so close I felt the heat off the bullet,” she said.

Other shoppers said Cooper fired off one more shot while leaving the store and a woman in the parking lot said he stole her car while armed with a gun.

After a wild chase through the south side and into Greenwood, Cooper wrecked that car and gave up after a short foot pursuit, saying to officers, “I did the right thing. I did the right thing.”

Police found a bloody handgun in the stolen car.

“He just looked blank,” said Baker. “Like he don’t even think at all. He just looks like he’s out there on his own little world.”

Baker said she felt helpless watching Castro’s murder.

“I’m sorry that it happened and I wish there was something I could do for him,” she said.

Cooper is being held without bond and his trial date has not been set.

“I’ll go testify,” said Baker. “I will have his [expletive] locked up. That poor man didn’t deserve that. He walked in that store, I mean, he thought he was going in there to get some groceries and going back home. That man never left Kroger’s.”