The Department of Homeland Security is seeking to shift blame for the failure to detain an illegal alien who was briefly apprehended by sheriff’s deputies in Ohio three weeks ago and is now accused of murdering a 60-year-old woman during a crime spree on Monday.
On Wednesday, a spokeswoman for DHS told The Daily Caller that Lake County sheriff’s deputies had declined an offer to personally interview the illegal alien, 35-year-old Juan Emmanuel Razo-Ramirez, during a suspicious person stop on July 7.
But the federal agency’s claim comes a day after Lake County sheriff Daniel Dunlap said in a press conference that Border Patrol told his deputies during that stop three weeks ago not to take Razo-Ramirez, a Mexican national, into custody.
The competing claims offered by the two agencies is reminiscent of the discordance between U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the San Francisco sheriff’s department over the detainment of Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, the five times-deported illegal alien who fatally shot Kate Steinle in San Francisco on July 1. Lopez-Sanchez was released by the sheriff’s department despite ICE’s detainer request because San Francisco is a sanctuary city.
Razo-Ramirez reportedly admitted to shooting Margaret Kostelnik in her home on Monday. The killing came hours after Razo-Ramirez allegedly tried to rape his niece, a 14-year-old girl, and then shot a 40-year-old woman in the shoulder in a park near Kostelnik’s house. After killing Kostelnik, who worked for 27 years as the assistant to the mayor of nearby Willoughby, Razo-Ramirez was apprehended following a brief standoff with police.
In a press conference Tuesday, Sheriff Dunlap said that Razo-Ramirez was stopped July 7 by deputies because he was acting suspicious. According to a police report from the encounter, Razo-Ramirez admitted to the deputies that he was in the U.S. illegally. But Razo-Ramirez was eventually let go after a brief phone interview with a Border Patrol agent. According to the deputies’ report, Border Patrol “decided not to respond to take Emmanuel Razo into custody.” (RELATED: Border Patrol Ordered Release Of Illegal Alien Now Accused Of Murder)
But DHS provided a statement to The Daily Caller on Wednesday that seemed to dispute the Lake County sheriff’s department’s version of events.
“Border Patrol agents interviewed this individual via telephone at the request of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office on July 7, 2015,” DHS spokeswoman Marsha Catron told TheDC in a statement.
“During that interview, Razo was uncooperative and the agents were unable to determine his immigration status. Without such a determination, the agents had no legal basis to file a detainer to hold the subject,” she added.
“Although the agents offered to meet with the deputies on site and interview the subject in person, the offer was declined and the subject was released.”
As a policy matter, federal immigration agencies require more than admission from an individual that they are in the U.S. illegally before detaining them for immigration violations. Biographic and biometric information must be obtained in order to establish an identity.
The question of who declined the request to have Razo-Ramirez meet with Border Patrol in person — Border Patrol or the Lake County sheriff’s department deputies — was left unanswered Wednesday.
Catron did not respond to those follow-up questions on the matter. The Lake County sheriff’s department did not respond to an email sent on Wednesday. And an assistant for Sheriff Dunlap told TheDC that the officials who could speak about the case had already left the office for the day. That was at 4:30 p.m. local time.
It is unlikely, given the Obama administration’s weak immigration laws, that Razo-Ramirez would have stayed in federal immigration custody for long even if Border Patrol agents had showed up to interview him. Razo-Ramirez reportedly had no prior criminal history. Because of that he is a very low priority in the Obama administration’s new Priority Enforcement Program.
That program, which Obama announced in November, focuses on “apprehending and removing convicted criminals, gang members, recent border crossers, and the most significant threats to public safety and national security.”
Initial reports stated that Razo-Ramirez had been in the U.S. illegally for five years. But a local Latino activist said on Wednesday that Roza-Ramirez had been in the U.S. much longer than that.
According to WKYC, Veronica Dahlberg, the executive director of the group HOLA Ohio, said that Razo-Ramirez’s father, who is a U.S. citizen, “filed documents for his children over a decade ago and Juan Razo was a beneficiary with an approved petition who has been ‘standing in line’ for his green card for over 12 years.”
She also asserted that Razo-Ramirez “was not a random illegal alien.” She also said that his actions do not highlight problems with illegal immigration in the U.S. She said Razo-Ramirez “has grappled with his serious mental issues for many years.”
During an interview on Fox News on Wednesday, Michael Cicconetti, the Painesville municipal court judge who arraigned Razo-Ramirez on $10 million bond on Tuesday, wondered how the illegal alien fell through the cracks after encountering local and federal law enforcement three weeks ago.
“If you are stopped, at that point, whether it be by law enforcement or you make your first court appearance, at that point we have to have some kind of identifier on him,” Cicconetti told Fox.