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For Richard Castaldo, the fight to keep his home out of foreclosure is only the latest in a life that has been full of extraordinary challenges. When he was 17, Castaldo became one of the first students shot during the Columbine High School massacre. Now, he's turned to Occupy Los Angeles to overcome this latest obstacle:
Richard Castaldo has a bullet permanently lodged in his spine from when, at 17 years old, he was shot eight times by two peers at Columbine High School.
Castaldo and his friend, Rachel Scott, were sitting outside during their lunch break on April 20, 1999, when fellow students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold began shooting. Richard and Rachel were the first students hit.
“They shot us both pretty much at the same time. It was all kind of one big spray,” Castaldo said.
He remembers waiting, bleeding for more than half an hour. Before help could arrive, Klebold and Harris returned.
“During that time I heard Rachel crying, and they came back and shot her in the head and I knew she was dead after that,” Castaldo said.
Confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life as a result of the shooting, Richard moved to Los Angeles five years ago to pursue a career in music, only to fall behind on mortgage payments for his condo.Now he hopes Occupy Los Angeles can help him find a way to stay in the city he now calls home.
“I feel like they’re really the only group that doesn’t have an ulterior motive,” said Castaldo, who admits he “should have known better” than to believe the value of his condominium would go up. Roughly 36,000 California housing units received a foreclosure filing in October, according to RealtyTrac.
Time may be running out for Castaldo, as the condo is set to be sold at auction on December 6. But given other successes Occupy groups have had saving homeowners threatened by foreclosure, he may still stand a chance. Over the summer, Occupy Our Homes -- an offshoot of the Occupy movement -- saved the home of a Minneapolis woman and helped another resident of that city resist foreclosure in the same month.
There's also The Home Defender's League who are quite successful at what they do, and they also have quite a few partner organizations -- some affiliated with the Occupy movement, some not -- even in California.
Richard won't be alone in this fight, and he's in good hands.
I'll update with any new developments.