Thurston County Watch

A Southeast Thurston Fire Authority firefighter who violently attacked a Bucoda man while off duty has been sentenced to two months in the Thurston County Jail after pleading guilty to one count of third-degree assault.

Lance Casto, 48, pleaded guilty earlier this year to assaulting 53-year-old Randall Berg on the evening of Sept. 21, 2018, outside Berg’s residence. He had originally been charged with second-degree assault.

During a July 30 hearing, Casto was sentenced by Thurston County Superior Court Judge John Skinder. This is Casto’s first felony conviction. His defense attorney had asked that he be sentenced to time served, but prosecutors pressed for the two-month sentence.

Southeast Thurston Fire Authority Chief Mark King said Thursday that the department will begin a “separation agreement” and that Casto will no longer work with the department. The department has been paying Casto’s monthly salary of $6,600 throughout the court proceedings.

The longtime firefighter is due to report to Thurston County Jail by Friday, Aug. 30, for his two-month sentence, according to court documents. He’ll receive credit for three days already served in jail.

“I think the biggest thing is that we know Mr. Casto has some diagnosed mental conditions that needs to be treated,” King said.

Under the terms of his plea agreement, Casto must also pay $800 in court costs and attend anger management and mental health consultations. He is not allowed to come into contact with Berg or his wife for five years. Prosecutors have also asked that Casto pay restitution to Berg, but that will require a hearing at a later date.

On Sept. 21, Casto ran into Berg and his wife while having dinner at Joe’s Place in Bucoda, according to a previous Nisqually Valley News report.

After dinner and drinks, the three left to scout out hunting spots.

Berg’s wife said while inside Casto’s vehicle, he made an advance on her and put his hand on her thigh. Berg apparently took issue with it.

Casto allegedly drove the couple to their home and, without warning, he pulled the man out of the truck and started beating him.

The woman kicked and screamed at Casto, and said later that “it seemed like a switch went off.”

Berg suffered damage in the form of a broken nose, a fractured cheekbone, broken teeth and lacerations to his feet, face and head. He later received treatment at a hospital.

According to a prepared statement, Berg wrote that his injuries were so bad that he was out of work for almost a month.

“The physical damage will heal with time, but the emotional and psychological impact has been devastating,” Berg wrote. “This attack will be career ending of my job. My brain, face, vision and pain make it impossible to do former job … This was a vicious attack. Was blindsided with a bottle broken over head. I was immediately knocked out. Lance Casto continued to beat on an unconscious person, hitting and kicking for how long I don’t know.”

Berg, who has epilepsy, said he could have easily been killed in the attack. Casto walked away uninjured, court documents state  

Berg also stated that medical bills had become burdensome and had impacted him financially. He noted in his statement that he lives just three blocks from Casto and sees him regularly, a fact that contributes to his fear for the safety of himself and his family.

Casto is a former Marine and has had previous run-ins with the law.

In 2014, he was arrested for allegedly hitting someone over the head with a tire iron, but the charges were later dropped.

In 2003, Casto was cited for DUI. Casto’s previous history also includes a domestic violence charge in Mason County District Court back in 1998.

Casto has been with the Southeast Thurston Fire Authority since 2003 and has had issues with a few coworkers within the department.

In 2015, he was suspended for five months for “creating an unsafe working environment.” Multiple coworkers have stated that they were afraid of what Casto might do to them during regular outbursts.

King said the process for separation will unfold in the weeks ahead and that his termination will include a motion of approval at the Aug. 7 meeting of the Board of Fire Commissioners.

King said this incident should be viewed as a wakeup call for those experiencing similar trauma.

”Hopefully the others who are in this business realize sooner that they need to go out and get some help and that they shouldn’t wait until they lash out off duty,” he said.

Since the incident, King said Casto has been involved in mental health treatment.

Casto could possibly serve a portion of his sentence in partial confinement if he receives a work release, though he is required to serve 12 months of probation.

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