A foreign national identified as an Immigration and Enforcement (ICE) “enforcement priority” in 2009 is now facing misdemeanor charges in North Carolina where he allegedly caused the death of a five-year-old boy.
Alejandro Suarez, 28, had allegedly been driving a large construction truck. Officials stated he left the truck running and failed to set the parking brake, ABC11 reported Wednesday night. The truck rolled down a hill and crashed into a house. The crash killed the young boy, William Everett Copeland – who went by his middle name, Everett.
ICE officials issued an immigration detainer for Suarez Wednesday night after confirming the Mexican national was “unlawfully present” in the United States.
A statement obtained from ICE officials by the local ABC affiliate revealed that Suarez “is an ICE enforcement priority due to a prior conviction for driving under the influence in 2009. The statement did not reveal if any steps had been taken to apprehend Suarez prior to the crash that killed young Everett.
The statement from ICE stated:
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a request that local law enforcement notify ICE prior to releasing Alejandro Suarez, a Mexican national unlawfully present in the United States, following his arrest December 26, on misdemeanor death by motor vehicle charges out of Orange County, North Carolina. Suarez is an ICE enforcement priority due to a prior conviction for driving under the influence in 2009.
ICE is focused on smart, effective immigration enforcement that prioritizes the removal of criminal aliens and other individuals who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security. Aliens convicted of crimes involving violence are among ICE’s highest priority for removal from the country.
Suarez had allegedly been operating the construction truck and did not have a license to drive or any other identification with him at the time of the crash, the ABC affiliate reported. The workers were loading the truck when it began rolling down the hill towards the Copeland’s home. No one was inside the cab of the truck and the parking break had been left unset, officials stated.
A group of small children were playing in the driveway as the large truck gained speed rolling down the hill. Everett was not able to get out of the way, officials stated, and was struck by the truck before it crashed into the garage of the house.
North Carolina law does not allow undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver license. A bill was introduced in the state’s legislature in 2015 that would allow an undocumented immigrant to obtain a driver permit. The bill, HB328, appears to have died in committee.
The Mexican national was arrested and is being held on a misdemeanor charge of causing death by motor vehicle. If convicted on the charge, Suarez could face up to 60 days in jail if this is his first offense. There is also a possible fine of up to $1,000, ABC 11 reported.
“At this point, we don’t believe the vehicle was properly secured,” Hillsborough Police Chief Duane Hampton told the local news outlet. “We will also be following up the investigation, looking at the mechanical condition of the vehicle and confirming all of the working relationships, regarding specifically which company the crew was working for.”
Suarez, and possibly others including the owner of the construction company, could possibly face other criminal charges. “When you’re talking about the criminal law, you’ve got to show intent,” Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall told the reporters. “You have to have proof beyond a reasonable doubt of the elements of the crime and … what the intent was. So I think that’s getting way ahead of the game trying to look how far up the chain, how far up the ladder you can go.