Suspect in fatal hit-and-run wanted by ICE; sheriff’s department refuses to honor detainer

DENVER -- An undocumented immigrant is in jail in connection with a deadly hit-and-run crash and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents want to take him into custody.

But the Denver Sheriff’s Department refuses to honor the detainer.

Denver stopped honoring detainer orders from ICE in 2014. If the undocumented immigrant, 26-year-old Ivan Zamarripa-Castaneda, posts his $25,000 bond, he’s free to go until his next court date.

Cellphone video captured the fiery aftermath of the deadly hit-and-run crash at Interstate 70 and Brighton Boulevard over the weekend.

The Denver Police Department said Zamarripa-Castaneda slammed into a semitruck, killing the driver.

Police say he then fled the scene. Officers located him the next day at his home and noted that his speech was slurred. Officers arrested him on vehicular homicide charges.

On Monday, ICE agents discovered Zamarripa-Castaneda is in the United States illegally, and immediately issued an immigration detainer in an effort to gain custody to get him deported to Mexico.

But the sheriff’s department refuses to honor it after rulings that it is potentially liable for a Fourth Amendment violation.

Spokesman Carl Rusnok said ICE prefers the criminal justice system serve its course and after sentencing, it would get custody of the criminal.

The sheriff’s department said the city will always enforce a warrant or order signed by a federal judge or magistrate. ICE said getting that warrant signed is no easy task.

“One of the issues is we detain somewhere around 34,000 to 40,000 people per day," Rusnok said. "We place detainers on thousands and thousands of people.

"Getting federal warrants for each one of those individuals would be extremely time consuming and it’s something we don’t have the resources for.”

As of now, if Zamarripa-Castaneda posts bond, ICE cannot deport him. Rusnok said that’s an issue of public safety.

“By ICE taking custody of these individuals, we actually help improve public safety by taking these criminal aliens off the streets and ultimately removing them to their country of origin,” Rusnok said.

The Denver District Attorney's Office has not officially charged Zamarripa-Castaneda.

Assuming it does, a spokesman said the intention is to prosecute defendants first upon a conviction and have them serve time in Colorado before ICE might deport them for criminal behavior.