(CNN) – President Donald Trump was “ghoulish and inappropriate” in politicizing a fatal drunken driving crash involving an undocumented immigrant, the Indiana prosecutor overseeing the case said.
Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry filed four felony charges Wednesday against Manuel Orrego-Savala, a Guatemalan citizen who had been deported from the US twice, for allegedly drunkenly operating a vehicle and killing NFL linebacker Edwin Jackson and Jeffrey Monroe in Indiana early Sunday morning.
In announcing those charges, Curry criticized Trump and others for focusing on Orrego-Savala’s immigration status rather than the tragedy of two lost lives.
“We will vigorously prosecute this matter, just like any comparable crime, not because of the immigration status of an accused, but because two innocent men lost their lives in this horrible incident,” Curry, a Democrat, said in a statement.
“We are disheartened that ghoulish and inappropriate public commentary has politicized this tragedy. Much of such commentary, including tweets by the President, fails to acknowledge that both Edwin Jackson and Jeffrey Monroe lost their lives on Sunday,” he added. “We will simply seek justice on behalf of the families of those two victims.”
The sharply worded comments came a day after Trump said it was “disgraceful that a person illegally in our country” killed Jackson, a linebacker for the Indianapolis Colts. Trump called on Democrats to “get tough on the Border, and with illegal immigration, FAST!”
As part of his call for tighter immigration policy, Trump has repeatedly highlighted crimes in which the suspect is an undocumented immigrant. On the campaign trail, he spoke often about the 2015 killing of Kate Steinle in San Francisco, allegedly by a man deported five times previously. The man, Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, was found not guilty of murder in the case.
Authorities said Orrego-Savala, 37, was driving the vehicle that fatally hit Jackson and Monroe early Sunday on Interstate 70. Orrego-Savala had a prior conviction for driving under the influence, and had been deported twice, according to officials.
Suspect in court
Orrego-Savala was charged in court Wednesday with two counts each of felony failure to remain at the scene of an accident and causing death when operating a motor vehicle with an alcohol concentration equivalent of .15 or more, according to court documents.
The judge entered a not guilty plea on his behalf and set bond at $200,000.
Outside the courtroom, defense attorney Jorge Torres said he had “serious concerns” about getting a fair trial in light of the negative attention on his client’s immigration status.
“Drunk driving has nothing to do with immigration status,” Torres said.
Orrego-Savala also was charged on Tuesday in federal court with illegal entry after previous deportations.
“The defendant in this case allegedly re-entered the country illegally for the second time before he put the public safety of Indianapolis at risk and took the lives of two innocent men early Sunday morning,” said Josh J. Minkler, a US attorney for the Southern District of Indiana.
Edwin Jackson, 26, started eight games in 2016 for the Colts, but did not play this past season due to an injury.
“Edwin was loved by all in the Colts organization,” the team said. “We admired his outgoing personality, competitive spirit and hardworking mentality.”
Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said he will pay for both men’s funerals.
After the crash Sunday, Orrego-Savala was accused of driving without a license and suspicion of intoxicated driving, and taken to the Marion County Jail.
Monroe, a ride-share driver, had stopped his 2018 Lincoln on the side of Interstate 70 in Indianapolis because Jackson, his passenger, had become ill, according to state police.
Both men were standing outside the car when a black Ford F-150 pickup truck drove onto the emergency shoulder and struck them.
One of the men was thrown into the center lane. A state trooper spotted the wreckage and as he slowed to stop for the crash, he struck the body in the center lane, officials said. Both men were pronounced dead at the scene.
During Orrego-Savala’s arrest, he gave the Indiana State Police an alias — Alex Cabrera Gonsales — and attempted to flee on foot, authorities said.
In a preliminary breathalyzer test, Orrego-Savala had a .239 percent blood alcohol concentration, about three times the legal limit to drive, according to a criminal affidavit. He also admitted to being the driver, according to the affidavit.
The affidavit states that the suspect had been “sound asleep” prior to being read his implied consent rights. In addition, an alcoholic container was found inside his vehicle on the passenger side, according to the affidavit.
When Orrego-Savala appeared before a judge on Tuesday, he questioned why he was in court, and claimed he wasn’t driving the car in the fatal crash, according to the court clerk.
A man listed as Alex Cabrera Gonsales was arrested last year in Whitestown, Indiana, after a driving infraction, according to a report by Whitestown Police officials, who confirmed both identities are the same person.
He was pulled over for failing to stop at a stop sign, and authorities found out he did not have a driver’s license, according to the police report. He was arrested and taken to jail for further processing.
Scott Rolston of Whitestown Police said the department generally would not communicate with ICE for a typical traffic stop.
Cabrera Gonsales pleaded guilty to operating a vehicle while never receiving a license, which is a misdemeanor, according to documents provided by CNN affiliate WISH-TV. He was sentenced to two days in the Boone County Jail and released after one day served.
Orrego-Savala was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in October 2006, and deported to Guatemala in January 2007, according to a federal criminal complaint.
He was prohibited from returning to the United States for 10 years, according to federal officials.
Two years after he was deported, he returned to the United States illegally, and was deported again two months later in May 2009, with an order not to come back for 20 years, according to the complaint.
County authorities gave the suspect’s name as Orrego-Savala, but the US attorney’s office identified him as Orrego-Zavala.