Monday, June 1, 2020 -
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A tale of two vehicular homicides

This month, two nearly identical tragedies took place. Two traffic collisions. In both, the perpetrator was driving under the influence. In both, the victim was killed. In both, the perpetrator fled the scene. In both, the perpetrator was later arrested. But now the difference: In one case, the perpetrator was released; in the other, the perpetrator was imprisoned.

The two cases we refer to are that of Ivan Zamarripa-Castaneda, who on March 3 caused a collision on I-70 with a tractor-trailer leaving the driver, John Anderson, to die in the inferno. The other case is that of Terrence Lamont Clark, who on March 6 caused a collision on Quebec Street that left driver Gaylon Powers dead.

There’s another twist to the tale. Ivan Zamarripa-Castaneda is an illegal immigrant. On March 5, ICE lodged an immigration detainer for Zamarripa-Castaneda, who was arrested March 4. On March 10, he  posted his $25,000 bond and was released from Denver’s Downtown Detention Center at 5:28 p.m. ICE was alerted at 6:33 p.m.

Sheriff Patrick Firman has ordered an investigation into what he termed an “unacceptable” delay in ICE being notified only after Zamarripa-Castaneda’s release. The end result is that the streets of Denver are right now less safe because Ivan Zamarripa-Castaneda is roaming them — unless, of course, he has already absconded.

And that is only the first aspect of this troubling case that has us confounded. Why was Zamarripa-Castaneda granted the opportunity to bond out? And why such a low bond? By fleeing the scene of a vicious crime he had already proven himself a flight risk. And the bond for most vehicular homicides in Denver starts at $50,000 — not $25,000. Not to mention, vehicular homicide was only one of Zamarripa-Castaneda’s three charges. Not to mention, there was no monitoring system put into place to track Zamarripa-Castaneda while he is out on bond.

These facts, taken in sum, lend themselves to the fear that the release of Zamarripa-Castaneda was politicized.

Denver is a “sanctuary city.” This has been punctuated by the city’s mayor and City Council and, more recently, by the somewhat absurd gigantic poster decorating city hall that states “We love immigrants.”

Loving immigrants may be a wonderful thing, but sanctuary cities are facilitating the protection of criminals, thereby risking the lives of law-abiding citizens, whether they be American born or naturalized. What seems to be occurring in Denver and elsewhere is the privileging of illegal aliens over legal aliens and US-born citizens. That’s what leaves us — and so many others — not only confounded but angry.

Who can forget the case of Ever Valles, an illegal immigrant released by the Denver sheriff in December, 2016 who in February, 2017 went on to participate in the robbery and murder of Tim Cruz. In Valles’ case, ICE received the notification an hour too late, although the Denver jail officials sent it about 25 minutes prior to Valles’ release. Whether 25 minutes would have been sufficient for ICE to show up on time, we’ll never know, and an innocent man is now dead. Of course, a key difference is that in 2016 Valles hadn’t been charged with a crime as severe as homicide.

Following the Zamarripa-Castaneda debacle, ICE Denver field office director Jeffery Lynch said that “as law enforcement professionals, we should all have the same ultimate goal in mind — to protect the public by combating criminals.”

If only.

What is developing is at best uncertainty and at worst rancor between agencies, which is the least effective way of either side getting its job done. What happened to cooperation? That’s usually — and universally — the most effective path, but it’s not the path Mayor Hancock and the City Council have chosen. The mayor has stated of his administration, “We do not do the work of ICE.” But what about the work of protecting citizens? Should that not take precedence ahead of formal job descriptions, agencies and politics?

The city’s combative approach to federal immigration rules, regulations and officials doesn’t seem to be benefitting either side. Crime-committing illegal aliens are being released; ironically, Hancock and the City Council may end up driving away support. When innocent people are killed, questions are asked and answers are demanded. Yet the city is remaining firm in its “sanctuary” policy. Not a good political move for the beleaguered mayor.

A critique of ICE must also be mentioned. The agency requires notification via fax. For 2018, this is an arcane method that will only lead to further delays of notification. If ICE desires to be notified in a prompt manner, it should allow notification by the far quicker methods that today’s technology affords.

Ivan Zamarripa-Castaneda’s court date is April 2. Count us among those who won’t be holding their breath waiting for him to show up.

Copyright © 2018 by the Intermountain Jewish News

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Rabbi Hillel Goldberg
Editor & Publisher

Shana R. Goldberg
Assistant Publisher