© 2020 Texas Public Radio
Real. Reliable. Texas Public Radio.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Friends And Family Remember Killed San Antonio Cyclist As Deeply Caring

Ghost Bike - Gonzalez.jpg
Paul Flahive
Leo Lopez (back left) looks on as Melissa Jo Rivas arranges items left at the memorial for Beatrice Gonzalez, who died last month just a few yards away.

Friends of Beatrice Gonzalez dedicated a temporary memorial to her four weeks ago, just a few yards from the spot where she was killed, near Central Catholic High School.

The 44-year-old loved cycling, often competing in organized events. For 15 years she rode several days a week. Her bicycle was prominently displayed at the home where she lived.

Now a white-painted bicycle sits prominently where she died.

Last month, police and witnesses said a drunk driver killed Gonzalez who was on a group ride at the time and had stopped on the sidewalk to call her daughter. The incident in early April has resulted in a grieving family, a young woman facing jail time and a $20 million lawsuit.

In the time it has been up, the memorial grew larger with symbols of love, loss and support.

“These are no good?” said one woman testing out a battery powered plastic white candle.

“I don’t think so,” responded Melissa Jo Rivas. Both members of the Beers and Gears cycling club that Gonzalez belonged to.

The “ghost bike” memorial grew so large with trinkets and devotional candles from Gonzalez’s loved ones that grocery bags filled with them were being removed last week.

“We just wanted to clean it up and make it presentable,” said Leonardo Lopez, a friend and neighbor who was with Gonzalez when she died.

Beatrice Gonzalez - bike
Courtesy of Danielle Gonzalez
Beatrice Gonzalez was a sort of den mother to the group she cycled with.

Lopez was close to tears as he talked about his neighbor, someone he said he would connect with nearly every day over the fence that divided their homes. He only got into cycling because of Gonzalez.

“We were on Walmart bicycles, I just thought a bicycle was a bicycle,” he said.

Gonzalez would chide him for his lack of knowledge. She had invested in an expensive carbon-fiber bike, he said.

Lopez remembered a kind woman who loved dancing, cooking and taking care of her cycling friends.

“Like if you didn't have a helmet or something, she would go and give you hers. You know anything to make it safe. You know, for us, to have a good time,” he said

He said she bought him a helmet to replace a cheaper one he owned.

Melissa Jo Rivas remembered a woman who was a sort of den mother to the group. She would push people to bike harder, and then she would push food onto riders afterward.

“She was like a big sister, like a mother. She took care of us. She fed us,” said Rivas.

And she was a good cook Rivas said, setting off a volley of comments from the group of around 10 people gathered to clean up

“Her potato salad,” cried one. “No one made potato salad like her.”

“Cornbread, her cornbread,” insisted Lopez. “I love her cornbread,” he said, momentarily slipping into present tense.

“All her food. Everything was amazing,” said Rivas.

On the day she died, Gonzalez spirits were high. Though her friends say she usually was in good spirits, this was different. She was in full makeup for a new job.

Gonzalez lost her job at a commercial cleaning company during the pandemic. She along with her 16-year-old son David, 22-year-old daughter Danielle and Danielle’s young son were living on her savings.

“That was the whole point of our trip. She was happy to talk to us. She was telling them what's going on and everything that (was) starting to change,” remembered Lopez.

That day Gonzalez had gone to Amazon to fill out paperwork for the position.

Courtesy Danielle Gonzalez
Beatrice Gonzalez began cycling in 2006, her daughter says, other than cooking, it was her sole hobby.

She was happy to be out with friends. Like most outings, she planned to invite the team over to her place to eat.

“A lot of times after we all bicycle, she would cook and go back home or whatever. And she cook and we all be there with her at the house. Relaxing and just catching up,” said Lopez.

She and her cycling friends would bike 13 miles, while her daughter, Danielle, would prepare the food.

“I think it was like fideo with shells and hamburger meat in there,” said Danielle

The only problem being that Danielle isn’t a confident cook.

“She's like, ‘Danielle, if you can't cook this, I don’t know,’” said the young woman laughing. “I was like, ‘Mom, you're really leaving me in charge to cook this?’”

As a result, Gonzalez was checking in regularly on her daughter’s progress in the kitchen.

After the ride’s turnaround point when she and Lopez had gotten too far ahead of Melissa Rivas and another rider and wanted to wait, they pulled onto the sidewalk.

She pulled out her phone and called Danielle.

“Every time she stopped, she called me and checked to see if I was making the food right. That's what we were talking about and the phone just dropped,” said Gonzalez, tears appearing at the edges of her eyes.

“I was like, ‘Mom, mom, hello,’” she recalled.

She said for two minutes she yelled into the phone, trying to get her mother on the line. All she could hear was yelling and commotion. She hung up and kept calling and texting.

But no one picked up.

Police say that 24-year-old Samantha Castillo slammed into Gonzalez with her 2016 Mercedes. Beatrice was thrown into the street. As Danielle was desperately trying to reach her mother, she was quickly dying.

Rivas caught up to the accident as an emergency crew from Fire Station #4 was pulling up. The sound of the accident was heard by nearby firefighters.

Rivas navigated her bicycle around the fire truck as it pulled up.

“I threw my bike and ran and saw (Lopez) and he's screaming, ‘They hit her, they hit her.’ And I'm like, ‘What are you talking about? Where's Beatrice?’ Before the fire department could even get off the truck. I made it to Beatrice. And I went to grab her and help her and they started yelling at me, ‘Don't touch her.’”

In the meantime, Danielle was racing to the scene. But then her phone rang and she answered it. They told her not to come. It was too late. Her mother was gone.

She said she sat in her car downtown. She had gotten lost trying to locate the accident. She said she just cried and yelled inside the car.

"It's hard for all of us, especially my little brother and my son. He doesn’t understand. He goes around saying ‘Grandma's asleep.’”
Danielle Gonzalez

A month after the tragedy, tears ran down her face as she remembered the story.

“It was hard. It's still hard every day. I wake up thinking about my mom. I can't go to her room to go talk to her. It's hard for all of us, especially my little brother and my son. He doesn’t understand. He goes around saying ‘Grandma's asleep.’”

Danielle lives in a house filled with memories and is clearly still grappling with her life now.

“There you go,” she said as tears streamed down her face again. “I start crying because it's hard. Like my mom's everywhere in the house.”

She is now in charge of raising a 16-year-old brother and her 3-year-old son. Her father is in prison.

Danielle says her mother was her role model — a woman who loved being around her children and bragged about them. She and her mom would have movie nights and often had long conversations that stretched until the early hours of morning.

Beatrice Gonzalez 2
Courtesy Danielle Gonzalez
Beatrice Gonzalez (right) stands in front of her daughter and grandson.

Danielle constantly asked her mother for advice.

Now, Danielle is in charge of her family. Soon her brother could be asking her for advice. She feels confident she can fill the massive shoes her mother left behind. What are the alternatives?

“It's my little brother. And my mom would have wanted me to take care of him, you know? So I'm not worried at all. I know, we could do this, we could get through this,” she said.

Danielle is suing Samantha Castillo, the woman who police say killed her mother, for $20 million, along with the bar she says overserved Castillo. TPR’s interview was conducted at her lawyer’s office.

“I want everybody to be held accountable. Everybody that was involved with that accident I want them to be held accountable,” she said.

Castillo’s lawyers said they will aggressively protect their client’s rights. The bar that Gonzalez is suing for wrongful death — Cerveceria Chapultepec — hasn’t responded to TPR’s emails.

Each day someone from Gonzalez’ cycling club passes her ghost bike memorial.

It will be removed soon, 44 days after it went up, one for each year in Gonzalez’ life.

They won’t change the route despite the tragedy, now they ride it to honor their friend Beatrice.

TPR was founded by and is supported by our community. If you value our commitment to the highest standards of responsible journalism and are able to do so, please consider making your gift of support today.

Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org and on Twitter at @paulflahive