Green

Kern County District Attorney Lisa Green conducts a press conference concerning the ICE agents involved in Delano crash last month that left two dead. 

Charges will not be pressed against two federal immigration agents who Delano Police Department officials said lied about pursuing a couple they suspected of being in the country illegally and died during a collision while fleeing, Kern County District Attorney Lisa Green announced Wednesday.

Santos Hilario Garcia and Marcelina Profecto Garcia died in a vehicle collision March 13 after being stopped by ICE agents in Delano. They fled the area after being pulled over, then crashed on West Cecil Avenue.

ICE Agents told Delano PD that they were not in “pursuit with emergency lights/siren,” but Delano PD said they uncovered surveillance footage showing the two agents were following the couple with their lights on before the collision.

Local law enforcement asked Green to review the case, seeking charges against the federal agents for lying to peace officers under Vehicle Code Section 31. They called the ICE agents’ statements “inaccurate and dishonest.”

“There is no credible evidence that either agent lied in their statement to Delano Police Officer Nino, and … I do not believe that legally we can pursue charges of giving false information to a peace officer pursuant to Vehicle Code Section 31.”

Green said Wednesday morning that the traffic stop and subsequent events had nothing to do with the fatal collision.

“They were not the cause of the crash,” Green said, referring to federal immigration agents Ramiro Sanchez and Dimas Benitez. “They had nothing to do with the crash.”

Instead, Green said, the crash was caused by reckless driving and a sharp turn that led the vehicle to overturn.

ICE officials and Delano Police Chief Raul Alvizo declined to comment on the announcement Wednesday.

The collision and resulting deaths have become a flashpoint of the national immigration debate, as federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have begun stepping up enforcement across California in response to state sanctuary state laws that make it more difficult for agents to arrest undocumented criminals in jails. ICE Director Thomas Homan warned Californians this year to “hold on tight” before vowing to send more agents into the state to conduct at-large operations that have spread fear in rural Central Valley farming communities, including those locally.

The enforcement came to a head when the Garcias died while fleeing immigration agents in Delano. Santos Hilario Garcia was a Mexican national, according to ICE, but was not the subject of the targeted enforcement efforts agents were conducting. He did, however, fit the description, ICE spokesman Richard Rocha said.

The incident began before 7 a.m. on a school day. ICE agents surveilling the the Garcias before they got into their Ford Explorer Sport Trac with one of their children, according to the DA’s office. ICE agents initiated a traffic stop in two separate, unmarked Jeeps after the Garcias dropped their student off at Robert Kennedy High School. The traffic stop took place after the Garcias turned north onto Cecil Avenue from Hiett Avenue, according to Green.

The agents activated their emergency lights, and the Garcias pulled over. As agents got out of their cars, the Ford fled the area “at a high rate of speed and continued westbound on Cecil Avenue,” Green said.

Both agents returned to their Jeeps and followed the Ford. Their lights were still activated.

After a brief period — Green said it was unclear how long — the agents stopped following the Ford because Garcia was driving “recklessly and passing other motorists at a high rate of speed.” The agents pulled over and discussed the situation. It’s unclear how long they were pulled over, Green said.

They decided to look for the Ford, and found it crashed on West Cecil Avenue. The length of time between the agents pulling over their Jeeps and finding the crash site was not determined, Green said.

ICE agents were not “pursuing,” the couple, Green said, but rather “following” them. There’s a legal distinction, she said. A pursuit, Green said, describes “actively attempting to apprehend a suspect who is attempting to avoid arrest while operating a motor vehicle at high speed and using evasive driving techniques.”

The distinction includes whether agents were operating lights and sirens (they were operating lights, but it’s unclear whether sirens were on because surveillance footage had no audio), and whether they were exceeding the speed limit. Those things would help constitute a pursuit, Green said.

But ICE agents didn’t appear to be speeding on the surveillance footage provided and didn’t overtake a civilian vehicle driving on West Cecil Road, where the speed limit it 60 mph. No witnesses provided statements suggesting agents were speeding, either.

There were three civilian witnesses interviewed, Green continued, and none of them said that the Ford was being followed or chased by police at the time of the collision.

“It appears to me, from my review of the surveillance video, that both agents were obeying traffic rules,” Green said.

Green said she could not determine the agents’ intent as they followed the Garcias.

The only way the DA’s office could have pursued charges, Green said, is if it could be proved that the lights and sirens being on was a factor in the collision. That would have constituted material evidence, she said, citing People v Morera-Munoz, case law establishing that a violation of Vehicle Code Section 31 must rise to the level of “corrupting an investigation” to support filing charges.

But agents who conducted an initial traffic stop and later followed the Garcias after they fled, didn’t cause the collision, Green said.

Rather, Green said, “It was an unsafe turn.”

Harold Pierce covers education and health for The Californian. He can be reached at 661-395-7404. Follow him on Twitter @RoldyPierce

(21) comments

KeepRapistsOffTheBench

When will she file a case against Brandon Martin? 20 years is too long to weight for justice

Totryisnottobe

I am voting against all the spineless hypocrites the GOP puts forth come November. Remember that folks! Republicans hate progress! Look at the damage what they have done thus far. They want us to live divided and want us to be a nation last in education. Republicans want us to go bankrupt from lack of healthcare, while they increase the deficit to give tax cuts to the rich! Kern County has been controlled by corrupt migrants from fly over country for too long! Let’s move Kern County forward beginning November!

Totryisnottobe

I am voting against weak all the spineless hypocrites the GOP puts forth come November. Remember folks! Republicans hate progress! Look at the what they have done thus far. They want us to live to be a nation last in education, go bankrupt from lack of healthcare, and give tax cuts to the rich! Kern County has been controlled by corrupt migrants from fly over country for too long! Lets move Kern County forward beginning November!

Sickofit

Seems like only some of you heard half the story....some of you clearly got the whole story. LISA said there were three uninvolved witnesses reported the ICE agents were not in pursuit which showed this in the video. She also said there was a single vehicle in front of the ICE agents and all driving at normal speeds. The video showed this too. The agents said they were not in pursuit. The video showed that too!!!! The only things some of you are laying your hat on, is the lights from the ICE agents vehicle’s. FYI...A pursuit reqires at least one red light to the front AND a siren which was not reported by a single one witness and no audio from the video. Anyone ever forget to turn your lights off to your vehicle by being in a hurry. That’s probably what happened here. Anyone think Delano PD considered that before they made their conclusion.

Jimmy green

One last thought for all the racist folks in this thread. You are illegal immigrants too. The native Americans never gave your ancestors amnesty or citizenship so your comments are weak just like your character. Last note. Funny how all these people use fake names to hide behind while they make juvenile remarks minimizing the loss of life and ignoring the district attorneys skirting of the law. She should be fired.

ReefRanger

Obviously, you are not a history scholar, and you would know about "weak comments", as this is the second post full of them.I shouldn't waste my time trying to teach you to dance, but I just can't help myself.
Your lame attack on the identities of those posting here further degrades your credibility and only shows that you have no real argument and only like to read your own nonsense. The death of the Garcias was unfortunate, but wholly preventable (their choice to run). And as to your stupid comment about DA Green skirting the law? I already covered that in my prior post to you. She went by EVIDENCE, so your call for her to be fired is just the rantings of an illegal-loving witch-hunter. By the way, if you did know anything, (which is obvious you don't), you would know that DAGreen is retiring this year, so that should give you at least a tiny bit of comfort. HINT: Any other DA worth their legal degree would come to the same conclusion in this matter.

Jimmy green

Am I the only person who thinks that it is not ok to lie under oath in a court of law? Aren't the feds setting a really bad example for state and local law enforcement by lying on the witness stand as well as to local police? I know why Lisa Green didn't prosecute those ICE agents. Because she thinks it's om to say anything to get her agenda and probably encourages our local police to say whatever however to get convictions. Also , could all the lames in this thread who are clearly not aware of a thing called the constitution. Could you clowns go back to school because you are clueless. If the cops have to lie about what they were doing them they were doing something shady. Just thinking in this context. If a never of the community was to lie to police or to the court. You have to know their actions would have consequences. I am ashamed of your actions Lisa green. As a man of principles I will tell you I am not perfect but this situation is no puzzle. Her choice to look the other way just makes Kern county look shady. Come in lisa green. You get o aid $400,000 a year to prosecute people who break the law. You don't get to decide who gets the weight if justice placed on their shoulders. As a matter of fact. The very symbol for the justice system is a woman holding up scales and she is wearing a blind fold. That is because the law goes for everyone. Well almost everyone. Lisa Green gets to change the rules because she is magic.

ReefRanger

First of all, no one lied under oath in a court of law. The statements made by the ICE agents were to a Delano PD officer. Secondly, evidence, both video and statements made by witnesses clearly showed that the agents were not in active pursuit of the Garcias. Maybe you should learn to read and comprehend before you go shooting your mouth off. And speaking of actions having consequences, your right. The Garcia's came here illegally. They ran from law enforcement. They drove in a reckless manner, putting the lives of everyone on that road at risk, and they couldn't control their car. They died. So whose fault is it again? By the way, you insult many on here saying they don't have knowledge of the Constitution, yet you don't provide any proof that you do either. So let me inform of a little bit of it. Illegal aliens in this country have NO rights...ZERO. you're one of those "principled" people who think people deserve a free pass just because of their skin color Guess what? The Constitution only agrees with you if those people were naturally born here. Illegal entry into this country does not automatically give you rights, no matter what the ACLU, CAIR, and the Dolores Huerta Foundation want you to believe. Illegal aliens are NOT VICTIMS, they are Criminals, and the sooner they (and people like you) wise up and do the right thing, the better it will turn out for them.
Footnote: The second you and IrLopez used the word 'racist' in your posts you lost any credibility. This isn't a race issue, and the fact that you both overlook the MANY laws that the Garcias broke, yet castigate law enforcement for simply doing their jobs, shows you to be not only of low education, but low character also.

Bodysnatcher

Yesss! Justice prevails!!!!!!

Concerned Citizen of Bakersfield

If only it was a bus filled with illegals...but every little bit helps

DogPark

It's simple. Don't run from law enforcement. How is this fact somehow lost...

Jimmy green

It's simple. You don't lie to police even if you are police too. Your argument is invalid.

REMUDA

Were they still in a school zone? Was anyone else, either pedestrian, vehicle or private property placed placed at risk by the recklessness of the Garcias (citizens of another country) in their sudden flight to evade and avoid arrest? DA Lisa Green is notably careful in regard to witnesses and evidence in all cases.

lrlopez74

Don't racists in Bakersfield have anything better to do than comment on news article all day?

lrlopez74

Apparently, lying to the police in Kern County is perfectly okay as long as immigrants end up dead. The KKK may be long gone, but white supremacy still rules.

ReefRanger

Apparently, being I'm this country ILLEGALLY is ok with you, so it kind of evens out.
They wouldn't be dead if they hadn't been running. Moral of the story: Come to this country the RIGHT WAY, and don't run from law enforcement. Based on the evidence, which clearly showed that the Garcias were not being pursued, DA Green got this one right.

GaryJohns

This will not sit well with Her Majesty, Dolores....!

Churchillis1

Good. It is getting pretty old watching people blame law enforcement every time somebody violates the law and tries to run from the cops.

lrlopez74

Did you bother to read before you made your racist comment? The ICE agents LIED to the police. Where do you live where lying to the police in an investigation is NOT a crime?

Churchillis1

My comment never mentioned race in my comment. You know what the appropriate name is for someone so obsessed with race that they call somebody racist without cause? A racist.

BanditIvy

ICE 1, Thugs 0

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