To most people, break-dancing was a brief fad that surged in popularity in the early 1980s, then faded away. But the spin moves, often done on one's head and hands, have grown into a hip-hop subculture that now spans the globe.
At the top of this underground world is Casterlow.
"He's dynamic," said Paul Ruma,a San Francisco area break-dance promoter. "He can almost fly. And that's no joke. He's like Michael Jordan."
Laura Kalehuloa,Casterlow's mother, said she was unable to afford gymnastics lessons for her son when he was young, so she encouraged him to practice flips with the children in his neighborhood. He bought linoleum and sprayed it with Pledge furniture polish to make it slick enough to spin on.
"The girls would scream like he was one of The Beatles," she said. "I've never seen anything like it."
In July, Casterlow claimed the title of best break-dancer in the country by winning the Rock Steady Anniversary tournament in New York City, Ruma said. Two months ago, the Sacramento youth traveled to Germany and won Battle of the Year 1998, the world championship.
Casterlow was to leave for Hawaii this week for a exhibition, said his mother. In February, he would have gone to Japan for another world competition and then, maybe, a national tour as a side act to a pop singer.
Those plans toppled Tuesday night when he was shot while sitting in the back seat of a parked car.
Casterlow and his mother went to an audition Tuesday night and arrived at their Fruitridge home around 7:15 p.m. A friend called and asked Casterlow to come and teach him how to play a video game. Casterlow agreed. Because it was cold, he asked another friend to give him a ride to the house rather than walk.
According to his mother, the teenager who gave Casterlow a ride stopped at his brother's house in the 6200 block of 39th Street before taking her son where he wanted to go. The driver and his girlfriend were in the front seat, and Casterlow was sitting in the back seat with another friend when a car drove slowly by around 9:45 p.m.
Casterlow told the others to just ignore the passing car, his mother said. They did, but the vehicle turned around and passed a second time. On the second pass, a passenger in the moving car opened fire with a handgun. Casterlow was struck once in the head. The others in his car were not injured.
Investigators said the bullets were not intended for Casterlow, but for either a resident of the 39th Street home or the driver of the car. The extent of the dancer's injuries remains undetermined. He fades in and out of consciousness and doctors say he could be facing paralysis on his right side.
A break-dancing competition will be held Jan. 15 in San Diego to benefit Casterlow, as well as a Southern California break dancer who is suffering from cancer, Ruma said.
"Our Christmas is gone," Kalehuloa said. "Our Christmas will be when my son comes home."
Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call Crime Alert
at (916) 443-HELP or (800) AA-CRIME.