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José Castillo (police officer)

José del Castillo about 1930

José del Castillo Sáez de Tejada or José Castillo (29 June 1901, Alcalá la Real – 12 July 1936, Madrid) was a Spanish Police Guardia de Asalto (Assault Guard) lieutenant during the Second Spanish Republic. His murder by four Falangist gunmen on July 12, 1936 led to a sequence of events that helped precipitate the Spanish Civil War.[1]

Early life and military career

José Castillo was the son of a lawyer of liberal political views. His mother came from an aristocratic family and was distantly related to General Miguel Primo de Rivera (Spanish dictator 1923–30). After attending school in Granada, Castillo entered the Infantry Officers' Academy in Toledo, in 1919. After graduation he became a junior officer in the 1st Regulares (Moroccan colonial troops). He saw active service in the Rif War, rising to the rank of Lieutenant. In 1925 he transferred to a Peninsular regiment of regular infantry,

Under the Republic

Following the overthrow of the Monarchy in 1931, José Castillo was appointed to the newly raised Assault Guards, a para-military force intended to maintain security in urban areas and provide a counterweight to the long established and conservative Guardia Civil. Officers of the Asaltos were selected for their perceived loyalty to the new Republic.

Castillo was a member of the Union Militar Republicana Antifascista (UMRA),[citation needed] an anti-fascist organization for military members,[2] and also worked in training the militia of the socialist youth. In April 1936, he commanded the Assault Guard unit which forcibly put down the riots that broke out at the funeral of Guardia Civil lieutenant Anastasio de los Reyes; for this, he was marked for death by the Falange. (The Guardia de Asalto were generally in favor of the Republic, the Guardia Civil more connected to what was to become the insurrectionary right-wing opposition.)


In June 1936, Castillo had married and his wife had received an anonymous letter threatening that he would soon be a corpse. On the evening of 12 July, Castillo left his home in central Madrid to take up night duty. On the pavement outside he was killed by four men with revolvers who had waited for him through the late afternoon; the bullet holes on the surrounding wall are still visible today.[3] The gun men escaped in the confusion amongst the late Sunday crowds and were never identified. Castillo was the second military officer with known socialist sympathies to have been murdered within five weeks.


In retaliation, that night at around 03:00, Castillo's close friend Police Captain Fernando Condés and other police officers and leftist gunmen, drove to the home of José Calvo Sotelo — leader of the monarchist party and a rival of José Antonio Primo de Rivera for leadership of the Spanish far-right — and asked him to come down to the station for interrogation. Driving with Calvo Sotelo in a police van of the Assault Guard, police officer and socialist gunman Luis Cuenca shot him in the back of the neck. (According to Hugh Thomas, although Cuenca was an "intimate friend" of Condés', Condés mostly likely had no idea that Cuenca intended to kill Calvo Sotelo; as the officer with his name on the paperwork for Calvo Sotelo's arrest, Condés considered killing himself; both Condés and Cuenca were soon arrested without incident). Calvo Sotelo's dead body was given to a municipal undertaker, without informing the undertaker of who it was. Cuenca then drove to the offices of newspaper El Socialista and told them what had occurred.[4]

As a deputy in the Cortes Sotelo had constitutional immunity from arrest and it is difficult to understand what other purpose than murder his kidnapping could have served.[5]

Both Castillo and Calvo Sotelo were buried July 14; fighting between Assault Guard and fascist militias broke out in the streets surrounding the cemetery of Madrid, resulting in four deaths. Three days later on July 17, the army uprising began in Morocco.

See also


  1. ^ Thomas 1976, p. 206 et seq.
  2. ^ Thomas 1976, p. 166.
  3. ^ Thomas 1976, p. 172 (for de los Reyes and the general characterization of the two Guards); p. 206 (for Castillo).
  4. ^ Thomas 1976, p. 206–208.
  5. ^ Stanley G. Payne 2006 The collapse of the Spanish Republic 1933-36


  • Hugh Thomas, The Spanish Civil War, Revised and Enlarged edition (1977), Harper & Row. ISBN 0-06-014278-2.