A man who had already been deported twice before went on a “reign of terror” this week in central California, one that included murder, attempted murder, robbery, carjacking, and a high-speed chase going the wrong way on the highway. All of that could have been prevented if local sheriff’s had been allowed to turn Gustavo Garcia over to ICE just two days before his rampage, but a new state sanctuary law prevented that.
Garcia was arrested last week on a misdemeanor charge of being under the influence of a controlled substance. When Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) saw that Garcia was under arrest they asked the police to turn him over. From the Visalia Times-Delta:
Before Garcia’s release, ICE officials alerted deputies that Garcia was a criminal with a violent past who had been deported once in 2004 and again in 2014. Garcia served 27 months in a federal prison between deportations for illegally reentering the country.
ICE agents issued an immigration hold against Garcia on Friday, following his arrest. The hold was not honored, however, and Garcia was released later that day, unbeknownst to ICE.
In the past, local sheriffs would have been allowed to turn Garcia directly over to ICE for deportation. But thanks to a new sanctuary state law, sheriffs were required to release him last Friday without notifying ICE. The next day, Garcia was wandering around the local Walmart asking strangers to buy him bullets. He couldn’t purchase them on his own because of his long criminal record. After he was turned down by at least one wary shopper, Garcia stole 300 rounds. Then on Sunday afternoon, less than 48-hours after his release from jail, Garcia went on a crime spree. Fox News reports how the spree began:
Garcia’s rampage started at around 1 p.m. Sunday when he shot a farm worker who was in the middle of unpacking fruit in Exeter. The farm worker was expected to recover.
Moments later, Garcia robbed a convenience store with surveillance footage showing Garcia firing shots at the ceiling and demanding more than $2,000 in cash, according to the Fresno Bee. Police believe the shooting of the farm worker was meant to be a distraction for the robbery.
At 7:30 p.m., Garcia shot a Motel 6 guest in the arm and chest in Tulare, police said. Her wounds weren’t considered to be life-threatening…
At around 1:30 a.m. Monday, Garcia shot up a Shell gas station near Pixley and then killed Rocky Paul Jones, 51, about an hour later outside an Arco AMPM in Visalia, police Chief Jason Salazar said…
He then fired shots from the backyard of his ex-girlfriend’s Visalia home as she and her children were inside. Police said the girlfriend and her children escaped unscathed.
Early Monday morning, police spotted Garcia in his car and gave chase. From ABC 30:
At around 6:30 a.m., Tulare County Sheriff’s deputies spotted Garcia’s vehicle and started a brief pursuit.
But they say Garcia’s car became disabled, and he started shooting at two deputies once he got out.
Those deputies were able to return shots at Garcia, who ran into an orchard.
Police say Garcia carjacked some farmworkers in the orchard, but this time Visalia Police spotted him leaving the area, and started a pursuit.
Near Strathmore, the California Highway Patrol says Garcia started going the wrong way on Highway 65, trying to intentionally hit other cars, going at least 100 miles per hour.
Garcia finally crashed into several other cars and was ejected from the vehicle he had stolen driving. He died at the scene. ICE released a statement yesterday about the incident:
This deadly rampage could have been prevented if ICE had been notified of his release. This is an unfortunate and extremely tragic example of how public safety is impacted with laws or policies limiting local law enforcement agencies’ ability to cooperate with ICE.
Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux, the sheriff who released Garcia last Friday also expressed frustration over California’s Sanctuary law:
“Gustavo Garcia in times past would have been turned over to ICE officials. Even though it was a misdemeanor charge, they placed a detainer on him. That detainer can no longer be recognized,” Boudreaux said.
“That’s how we did it in the past and that’s how we had always done it. And now, that tool has been taken from law enforcement,” Boudreaux continued. “After [the passage of] SB-54 we no longer have that power.
“That tool has been removed from our hands and because of that our county was shot up by a violent criminal that could have easily been prevented had we had the opportunity to reach out to our fellow counterparts,” he added.
Sheriff Bourdeaux made a point of saying that he supports DACA and does not believe local police should be used to carry out routine immigration enforcement. However, in this instance, he is convinced the sanctuary state law made things much more dangerous for the people in his county.
Update: Tulare County released this body camera video of the shootout Garcia had with police before he carjacked a second car and led police on a high-speed chase. Below that is a local news report on the murder victim in this case.