The man accused of killing two Good Samaritans who tried to help him on a Montana roadside was encountered by immigration authorities earlier this year after a burglary arrest, but was unable to be deported because he had already gotten legal status, federal authorities said this week.
The horrific killing has drawn attention at a time when crimes committed by immigrants are a hot political topic, thanks in part to GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump’s claim that Mexican society sends bad elements to the U.S.
Jesus Yeizon Deniz Mendoza, an 18-year-old Mexican man, has been charged with the killing of Jason and Tana Shane, who saw him stopped on the side of the road Wednesday and tried to help him. When they showed up on the scene with their daughter, Mr. Deniz pointed a gun at them and demanded money, according to an FBI affidavit filed in the federal court case.
They Shanes said they didn’t have any money and Mr. Deniz started to walk away, but then changed his mind and shot the father, then the mother and then the daughter, who was by this time running away. She managed to escape, though not before being shot in the back, the FBI affidavit said.
Mr. Deniz told the FBI he shot the three people with a .22 caliber rifle because he was tired of waiting, and because he thought he heard the daughter laughing at him, FBI Special Agent Larry J. McGrail II said in the affidavit.
Mr. Deniz is Mexican, and the Obama administration deems him a legal permanent resident who entered the country legally on May 31, 2013 — though they didn’t say how he earned that status initially.
PHOTOS: 11 times a good guy with a gun stopped a bad guy, saving lives
Crime amongst Mexican immigrants has become a major issue in recent weeks after Mr. Trump, in announcing his presidential campaign, said Mexico sends “criminals, drug dealers, rapists” to the U.S.
His comments have been challenged by Hispanic-rights activists who said they were offensive and incorrect, pointing to statistics that immigrants generally have lower crime rates than native-born Americans.
But a spate of recent high-profile murders with illegal immigrants as the chief suspects has sharpened the debate, and put a focus on American immigration policy — partly because the suspects have often had previous run-ins with immigration authorities.
Indeed, just a month ago Mr. Deniz was arrested by police in Worland, Wyo., on burglary charges. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers were informed, but they couldn’t do anything because he was a permanent resident, and his crime didn’t rise the level of being kicked out of the country.
If convicted in the new case, however, he could be deported, ICE said.
“This individual does not have any criminal convictions, and, as a permanent resident, is not currently removable. Thus, an ICE detainer cannot be placed on the individual at this time,” the agency said in a statement. “However, ICE is closely monitoring this case and coordinating with local authorities. If he is convicted for a criminal offense that allows him to be removed from the country, after the completion of sentence, ICE intends to take him into custody and pursue his removal from the United States.”
PHOTOS: Best states for concealed carry — ranked worst to first
Worland police declined to comment on the earlier burglary case, saying it’s an active investigation.