DENVER – The Denver Sheriff says he wants to know why his staff failed to notify ICE officials that a foreign national, suspected in a fatal hit and run crash, was about to be released from jail.
ICE issued a “247 request for notification of release” on March 5 at 1:11 a.m.
But immigration officials were not notified until after Ivan Zamarripa-Castaneda had bonded out and was released from Denver's jail on March 10.
“We made a mistake,” said Sheriff Patrick Firman. “For some reason, that notification wasn’t made. It wasn’t realized until after he left our custody.”
When asked if it was intentional, Firman replied, “I hope not. We believe that we’ve got some really good processes in place, and we have some excellent staff that work in those areas.”
The Sheriff said he has ordered a review.
“We want to make sure that whatever the issue is, that we take care of it and address it, so it doesn’t happen again,” he said.
Investigators say Zamarripa-Castaneda, 26, was driving eastbound on I-70, on March 3, when his pickup slammed into a semi operated by long-time truck driver John Anderson, 57, of Lone Tree.
While the suspect fled the scene, Anderson’s truck caught fire. He died in the blaze.
“He didn’t deserve to die in a fiery truck accident,” said Sonja Dahlbacka, a longtime friend of the victim. “This man could have possibly pulled him out of the truck and saved his life, but he chose to run, like he’s running now.”
Dahlbacka said she can’t believe the circumstances.
“We are mortified and furious,” she said. “It’s like our government has turned their back on us. It seems that the illegal aliens are the ones that have the rights, that get all the breaks.”
Dahlbacka said she wants justice, "an eye for an eye."
The probable cause statement obtained by Denver7 indicates that Zamarripa-Castaneda showed signs of impairment, including slurred speech, when he was arrested 12 hours after the crash.
Questions raised about ICE
While Firman admits that his department made a mistake, those on the front lines of the immigration fight say ICE dropped the ball too.
“Our hearts break for the family who lost their loved one,” said Julie Gonzales, policy director at the Hans Meyer Law Office, “but there are serious questions about whether ICE is doing its job.”
Gonzales told Denver7 that, “ICE should have gotten a ‘real’ warrant, a criminal warrant, like any other law enforcement office would have done.”
She said, “If ICE actually determined that the individual was a public safety threat, why didn’t they go get a (criminal) warrant, in order to have him detained?”
Field Office Director Jeffrey Lynch told Denver7 that many people don’t understand the difference between the criminal process and the administrative process.
He said most of what ICE does is administrative in nature.
“That’s the way the law was written,” he said. “Title 8 of the U.S. Code gives us our authority to issue administrative warrants. That’s the same authority that gives a federal judge his authority to issue criminal warrants.”
A Denver Sheriff spokesperson said they haven’t honored “detainer requests,” or ICE signed administrative warrants since 2013, because they’re not judicial orders and because holding someone in jail with no judicial basis “would violate the individual’s 14th Amendment rights, and subject the city to significant liability.”
Lynch wouldn’t talk about the Zamarripa-Castaneda case, but did say that he met with the sheriff and other city officials Monday morning.
“I’m comfortable that they are going through their own internal process to see where the miscommunication happened,” he said. “We all share the same concern for public safety. We want to make sure that folks, that are a public safety threat, remain in jail.”
When asked if they’re usually given enough time to retrieve a suspect who is bonding out of jail, Lynch said, “If we receive about two-hours-notice before the suspect is released from jail, generally, that’s enough time.”
Firman said the Denver Sheriff Department responds to 15 to 17 ICE “notification of release” requests a month.
“This is the first time they issued notification after the individual was released,” he said.
There was a previous instance where Denver notified ICE of a pending release, but ICE only had 25 minutes to respond.
That drew a rebuke from U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has accused Denver of being a “Sanctuary City.”
The inmate, Ever Valles, a suspected auto thief, walked free and then months later was implicated, charged and later convicted in the shooting death of a man at an RTD station.
Valles was sentenced last Friday to 29 years in prison.