Family of DUI homicide victim: Feds failed to deport illegal-immigrant killer

Michael Volpe Contributor
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Family members of a Chicago man killed in 2011 by a drunk driver are steaming mad at city officials for failing to bring the driver’s illegal immigration status to the attention of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) when they first learned about it, four years ago.

A 2008 police report shows local authorities learned Saul Chavez was an illegal immigrant following an unrelated arrest that year, but did nothing about it.

On June 8, 2011, Chavez was driving drunk in the Logan Square Neighborhood of Chicago when his car hit and killed long-time insurance agent Denny McCann, 66.

Chavez’s blood-alcohol content was 0.29 percent, more than three times the legal limit.

Witnesses said that on impact McCann cracked the windshield of Chavez’s 2002 Dodge Neon and then tumbled forward. But the driver tried to flee, running him over and dragging him 200 feet with the car. McCann died that night.

Chavez was already a convicted drunk driver when he ran down McCann, and a police report obtained by the Daily Caller shows that he told police during a Sept. 20, 2008 DUI arrest that he was in the United States illegally.

The report also reveals that when Chicago Police asked Chavez for his license and  vehicle registration that night, Chavez responded, “I live in Chicago on Kedzie [Street]. I don’t have a driver’s license because I don’t have papers.” (RELATED: Read the 2008 police report)

McCann’s family members say police should have turned Chavez over to ICE, the federal agency responsible for enforcing immigration law. Had ICE been called, they argue, Denny McCann would be alive today.

Instead, Denny is dead and Chavez is on the run. He fled after posting bail last year and law enforcement agencies have not located him.

In addition to his Chicago residence, Chavez has an address near Mexico City.

TheDC spoke exclusively with family spokesman Brian McCann, Denny’s brother.

“I can think of at least twenty people that knew that Chavez was illegal and didn’t say anything to ICE,” said Brian McCann. “We as a family want those responsible to take responsibility for failing to report him to ICE, but we don’t expect that to happen.”

McCann said he hopes public officials who failed to notify ICE of Chavez’s illegal immigration status will issue a public apology and acknowledge their role in his brother’s death.

That group, he said, includes everyone who saw the arrest report: the arresting officer, his superiors, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, the Cook County Probation Department, and probation Judge William T. O’Brien. They all, McCann told TheDC, had a responsibility to report Chavez to ICE.

Chavez spent 17 months going in and out of Judge O’Brien’s court room between his 2008 conviction and February 8, 2011, when O’Brien signed off on Chavez’s successful probation completion. During that time, the police report documenting Chavez’s confession that he was undocumented was available to the judge, state’s attorney and the Department of Probation.

But an ICE representative told The Daily Caller last month that the agency wasn’t made aware of Chavez’s existence until 2011, after he killed Denny McCann.

Reached for comment, the office of Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez refused to accept any responsibility.

In an email statement, a spokesperson wrote that “Notifying ICE is not the responsibility of the State’s Attorney’s office; you need to contact the Chicago Police Department or the Cook County Sheriff’s office regarding this issue.”

None of the other law enforcement and other government agencies involved in the Chavez case responded to phone calls from TheDC for comment.

Both the City of Chicago and Cook County, Ill., are regarded as “sanctuary” municipalities. As a matter of policy, they don’t report suspected illegal illigrants to the federal government.

ICE did issue a “detainer” order for Chavez shortly after his June 2011 arrest — a request for local law enforcement to hold him, bail or no bail, long enough for the federal government to take custody and begin immigration proceedings.

Cook County ignored that order.

ICE should have learned about Chavez through the federal government’s Secure Communities program, which pools arrest reports from municipalities and shares them automatically with other agencies, including ICE.

President Obama expanded what had been a small pilot program in March 2011, covering more than 1,200 jurisdictions. According to ICE, Cook County was never one of them. Federal authorities, however, have continued to issue detainer orders when they learn of criminal aliens in local jurisdictions’ custody.

In an exclusive report last month, TheDC learned that since May 2011 ICE agents have been prohibited from entering the Cook County Jail. ICE has repeatedly complained about the resulting investigative roadblocks.

And since Secure Communities subverts what “sanctuary” policies attempt to do, it came as no surprise when Cook County rebelled against it. The county passed an ordinance on September 7, 2011 that effectively ended all cooperation with ICE detainers.

So when Chavez posted bail in November, he was allowed to walk out of jail.

An ICE official told TheDC about the tortured process agents are forced to follow in order to determine which criminal suspects may be illegal immigrants in Cook County.

“ICE reviews the public kiosk and the lists posted outside of each Cook County bond courtroom that show the name and incident report of individuals appearing in bond court,” the agent said. “ICE takes the limited information from the public kiosk and cross-references it through various law enforcement databases to determine if enough information exists to warrant issuing an ICE detainer.”

The McCann family continues to believe the Chavez case should have been handled differently. During a Cook County Board hearing about the ordinance ending county cooperation with ICE, Brian McCann said, “Public safety is paramount to policy, and this ordinance, in my opinion, was not about public safety.”

With Chavez providing Exhibit A for why Cook County’s policy doesn’t work, the Board is rethinking things. An amendment walking back the September ordinance is making its way through the county’s legislative process.

Brian McCann, however, insisted that his brother is dead because local officials failed to do their jobs. So far, he said, no official has publicly or privately acknowledged to the family that any mistakes were made in handling the Chavez case.

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