Edwin Jackson death: Illegal immigrant charged with four felonies after alleged drunken driving crash
The footballing world was still mourning the death of Indiana Colts linebacker Edwin Jackson when it came to light that the driver responsible for the crash was an illegal immigrant. Now, the tragedy has been severely politicized.
Twenty-six-year-old rising star and Indiana Colts linebacker Edwin Jackson was tragically killed on the eve of the Super Bowl after he was hit by a drunk driver along the Interstate-70; killed alongside him was 54-year-old Uber driver Jeffrey Monroe, who had stopped the car the pair was driving in to assist Jackson, who had been feeling ill.
A Ford F-150 pickup truck, driven by 37-year-old Manuel Orrego-Savala, had rammed into the emergency shoulder and plowed into both the victims, killing them on the spot. He had tried to flee the scene on foot but was apprehended by a trooper a short while later.
It was later revealed by authorities that Orrego-Savala was of Guatemalan descent, and been living in the country illegally, despite being deported on two separate occasions in 2007 and 2008. Police also said that he had been driving without a license and that his blood alcohol content was nearly three times Indiana's legal limit, measuring in at 0.239%.
Orrego-Savala is currently being held in the Marion County Jail and was seen responding through an interpreter during his initial court hearing. He has been charged with two counts of causing death while operating a vehicle above the legal alcohol limit and two counts of failing to remain at the scene of the accident. The former carries a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison. The 37-year-old told the judge through an interpreter: "I wasn't driving the car. I don't know why I am here."
Public defender Jorge Torres, who has been tasked with representing him, said that his client was "distraught" and "confused."
Despite his denials, the criminal affidavit suggests that Orrego-Savala admitted to being the driver. It also says that he was sound asleep prior to being read his implied consent rights and that an alcoholic container was found inside his vehicle on the passenger side.
The judge entered a not-guilty plea on Orrego-Savala's behalf and set the bond at $200,000. Torres indicated that he had 'serious concerns' about getting a fair trial after all the attention his client's case was getting since it came to light that he was an illegal immigrant, saying: "Drunk driving has nothing to do with immigration status."
His case is not helped by the fact that he has been previously convicted of driving while under influence as well: in California, in 2005. According to San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe, in that particular case, he had pleaded no contest to two separate drunken-driving offenses and was given just a brief jail sentence.
He has numerous other blots on his public record as well, with various misdemeanor convictions and arrests in Indiana and California painting a picture of a serial offender. He was arrested last year in Whitestown, Indiana, after failing to stop at a stop sign and taken to jail. However, he was not reported to ICE because authorities do not communicate with the agency for routine traffic stops.
Police are currently working in hand with federal immigration officials and ICE has reportedly asked Marion County Jail to continue detaining him for federal immigration agents. Orrego-Savala was using an alias of Alex Cabrera Gonsales to avoid detection and will be deported again. However, before his deportation, he is likely to be prosecuted locally for the fatal car crash.
US President Donald Trump immediately seized upon the tragic accident to make a point about illegal immigration and reinforce his argument for tighter immigration policies and the building of his much-vaunted border wall. He tweeted: "So disgraceful that a person illegally in our country killed @Colts linebacker Edwin Jackson. This is just one of many such preventable tragedies. We must get the Dems to get tough on the Border, and with illegal immigration, FAST!"
He continued: "We need a 21st-century MERIT-BASED immigration system. Chain migration and the visa lottery are outdated programs that hurt our economic and national security," but to his credit, did follow it up with a tweet expressing his condolences, writing: "My prayers and best wishes are with the family of Edwin Jackson, a wonderful young man whose life was so senselessly taken. @Colts."
That stance was parroted by Indiana State Representative Todd Rokita, who tweeted: "This news should make all Americans angry. A twice-deported illegal immigrant is suspected of killing 2 Hoosiers, including Colts LB Edwin Jackson. We must do more to get these dangerous illegal immigrant criminals off our streets, build a wall & put an end to illegal immigration."
Those statements were strongly criticized by Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry, who said: "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."
"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. We will simply seek justice on behalf of the families of those two victims."
Lovingly known as 'Pound Cake' amongst teammates and friends, the manner of his death was hard for most to digest. Having just begun to reach his peak years after a difficult road to the top, a spokesman for the Jackson family said that the linebacker's relatives were devastated.
A statement released by the Indiana Colts read: "We were heartbroken to hear the news of Edwin Jackson’s passing. Edwin was loved by all in the Colts organization. We admired his outgoing personality, competitive spirit and hard-working mentality."
"He was well-respected among all with whom he crossed paths, and he will be greatly missed in our locker room and throughout our entire organization. We also understand that another person lost his life in the accident, only adding to our sorrow on this day. We are shocked and saddened by this tragedy, and our thoughts and prayers are with the families of both men during this difficult time."
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