An illegal immigrant released by a “sanctuary city” county in New Jersey was charged last week with a triple homicide halfway across the country in Missouri, authorities said Friday.
Luis Rodrigo Perez stands accused of being the gunman in a shooting rampage last week that claimed the lives of two men and one woman at two homes.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said it had tried to deport Perez after he was arrested on domestic violence charges in Middlesex County, New Jersey, last year.
But the county, which has a noncooperation policy with ICE, refused to alert federal agents when it released Perez in February, ICE said.
“Had ICE’s detainer request in December 2017 been honored by Middlesex County Jail, Luis Rodrigo Perez would have been placed in deportation proceedings and likely sent home to his country — and three innocent people might be alive today,” said Corey Price, acting ICE executive associate director.
John Tsoukaris, ICE’s deportation operations field director in Newark, New Jersey, called Middlesex County’s policy reckless.
He said Perez had a history of violence and would have been a clear candidate for cooperation.
“We hope that this tragic turn of events forces Middlesex to reconsider its policy and that the local elected officials stop protecting criminal aliens,” Mr. Tsoukaris said.
In a statement, the county government rejected blame and said it was ICE that dropped the ball.
Officials said they repeatedly have told ICE that they will cooperate only in some instances, such as when someone is convicted of a first- or second-degree offense. They said Perez’s case didn’t reach that level.
Still, they said, ICE had 51 days while Perez sat in jail during which the agency could have tried to get a deportation order for him. The county said it would have honored that order.
“Instead ICE officials chose to do nothing, which places all responsibility of Mr. Perez’s actions squarely upon ICE,” the county government said in its statement.
Police in Missouri say Perez attacked a home from which he had been kicked out. The victims were heard “begging for their lives,” The Associated Press reported, citing charging documents.
Perez later returned and fired on yet another person, authorities said.
Perez still had outstanding warrants from New Jersey, The Associated Press reported.