Dog Dies Protecting Family After Gunman Opens Fire At Birthday Party

Javian Castaneda, 17, allegedly pulled out a pistol and opened fire after a dispute with Laura Martinez's family, prompting "Zero the Hero" to leap into action.

By Dorian Geiger

A Houston family is mourning the loss of their dog ‘Zero the Hero,’ who was shot and killed after attacking a gunman who allegedly opened fire on a birthday party at their house.

Laura Martinez, the dog’s owner, said their pup bit the alleged shooter, Javian Castenada, several times—and likely saved their lives—after the teenager stormed her daughter’s birthday party with a gun on March 10.

“If [Castenada] had been able to just aim where he wanted to shoot, we would have all been seriously hurt, or killed,” Laura Martinez, the dog’s owner, told Oxygen.com.

Martinez was shot in her right leg and said her son Tyler Hollier, 19, was struck in the ankle. Her daughter Valori Pace, 27, was also shot twice. One of those bullets, Martinez added, is lodged an inch from her daughter’s spine and can’t be removed.

“Every time [Castenada] would go to aim [his gun], Zero would grab him and it would lower his shot. Say if he was aiming for the chest, his arm got pulled down to the leg.”

The 3-year-old Great Pyrenees did not survive the multiple gunshot wounds he suffered.

Javian Castenada, pictured left, is accused of shooting up a Houston family's birthday party on March 10 and killing their dog, Zero, pictured right.

“[Castenada] walked up into the driveway — there was somewhat of a family gathering or family party — and he did shoot three of the individuals,” Jerry Luman, chief deputy at Harris County Constable, Precinct 2, told Oxygen.com.

Martinez claims Castenada, 17, broke into their house and robbed them the night before while they were sleeping, taking jewelry, clothing, and her son’s wallet, which contained $300 cash. The Texas woman said Castenada later posed on Snapchat wearing her son’s hat. Castenada, she said, is a family acquaintance and used to play football with her sons.

When Martinez went to go confront the teen’s parents at their house, she said Castenada appeared and threatened her. She went home, where her kids were celebrating. Later, Castenada arrived at the family’s home, pulled out a pistol, and allegedly began firing after punching Martinez in the face.

“It made no sense,” Martinez recalled. “No one expected it.”

And that’s when she said Zero sprang to action, biting Castenada on the arm several times.

“[Zero] took a shot to the chest first and he went down,” she recalled.

The gunman then turned on Martinez’s son, Taylor, blasting him in the ankle, and took aim at her daughter, Valori. But each time he was about to pull the trigger, Martinez said Zero pounced on him.

“Then Zero took a shot to the head, actually his ear, and went down again,” she added. “Zero got back up—and I don’t know how, but he got shot again. Every time he got hit, he got back up again.”

The third and final bullet, she said, paralyzed the dog.

Zero was driven to a nearby animal hospital but died shortly afterwards.

Castenada allegedly fled the scene. But then, Martinez said, the threatening texts began.

“[Castenada] actually sent a message the day after the shooting saying that we shouldn’t have called the cops, we should have just laid there and bled,” she said. “And now, [since] we called the cops, he’s going to come light up our house again so there were not witnesses left. We were scared.”

Martinez begged the teenager’s family to turn him in and even asked a family friend, a bounty hunter, to stay with them. And for about a week, she said they lived in fear of retaliation.

But on March 18, Castenada turned himself into police. He was charged with three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, according to the Harris County Constable, Precinct 2.

However, Castenada’s lawyer, Sam Cammack III, rejected Martinez’s version of the shooting. Cammack said his client was acting in self-defense and that the pistol used in the shooting was not brought to the birthday party by Castenada.

“There’s an entirely different side to that story,” Cammack told Oxygen.com. “They turned that dog loose on him is what they did.”

Cammack, who referred to Castenada as a “good boy,” said the entire "dog-saves-family" narrative was fabricated.

“I saw the GoFundMe page for the dog, and all that crap. All that is just a bunch of nonsense,” Cammack said. “They put that dog on that boy. These people have sensationalized like the dog was protecting the family.”

Castenada is currently locked up awaiting trial on three $30,000 bonds. Cammack said his court appearance is April 2.

The Martinez family's memorial for their dog Zero, who was killed in a shooting at their Houston home on March 10.

Still, the dogs owners are now struggling to deal with a host of family medical expenses that exceed $40,000.

But Martinez, a Lyft driver, is on crutches and unable to work after having surgery to repair the bullet wound to her leg. She now requires physical therapy, and so does her son, Taylor, who she said can’t return to his job as a security guard for six to eight weeks.

“We’re already financially strained,” Martinez said. “Everyone in the household is just struggling to cover the water bills — no one is bringing in the income they normally were. The emergency room bills are so high, the ambulance rides. ... We don’t know how we’re going to cover them.”

The family is also coping with the loss of their dog. They've since installed a memorial for Zero on their front lawn. Yet, Martinez said the animal’s absence is palpable.

“There’s a lot more room in my bed. He would always cuddle with me if I was sick or didn’t feel good. And now when I feel my worst, he’s not here.”

“I miss him,” Martinez said, choking back tears.

The Houston mother of five suspects the road to healing — both physical and emotional — will be a long, bittersweet ordeal. But she admitted finding solace in the fading memories of Zero—and the sacrifice she said he made.

“I might not even be here if it wasn’t for him,” she added.

The family has set up a GoFundMe page to help with their medical expenses. 

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