DENVER -- Three Denver sheriff's department deputies have been reassigned as part of an internal investigation into a high-profile mistake that allowed an undocumented immigrant to bond out of jail before Immigration and Customs Enforcement was notified.
Ivan Zamarripa-Castaneda, 26, posted a $25,000 bond on Saturday for vehicular homicide and walked out of the downtown jail at 5:28 p.m.
He's accused of driving drunk on Interstate 70 and killing 57-year-old John Anderson of Lone Tree on March 3.
On March 5, ICE sent a detainer request to the sheriff's department, saying it wanted to take custody of Zamarripa-Castaneda if he posted bond.
The department doesn't honor detainers unless they include a federal warrant signed by a judge.
But Sheriff Patrick Firman has repeatedly said deputies are allowed to notify ICE once the bonding process is underway so immigration agents can pick up foreign suspects as they walk out of the jail.
On Saturday, ICE wasn't notified until 6:33 p.m., more than an hour after Zamarripa-Castaneda had been released.
A union spokesman who represents deputies said three deputies who were working in the records department at the time of Zamarripa-Castaneda's release have been reassigned.
"There’s confusion among our sergeants and all the supervisors there," said Michael Britton, vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police Chapter 27.
Britton said the deputies probably made the notification mistake because recent training has emphasized not to cooperate with ICE on detainer requests and some deputies even fear being terminated if they're seen as being too cooperative with ICE.
"Everybody that I’ve talked to in records and release [is] definitely paranoid that if they work with ICE, where are the boundaries that we have, that lie with working with that agency," Britton said.
He said all staff underwent new training last year on how to handle detainer requests and he said most deputies were left with the impression not to help ICE.
"What you have is a domino effect with the officers. Once you get this 'no, no, no,' all the officers take more precautions," Britton said.
As a result, Britton believes deputies have so much fear about violating the sheriff's department policy on detainer requests that they erred on the wrong side and failed to realize they're actually supposed to at least notify ICE during the bonding process.
In the case of Zamarripa-Castaneda, the process took 10 hours, which would normally give ICE agents plenty of time to show up and arrest him.
A spokeswoman for Firman said the department implements an average of 15 to 17 requests for notification to ICE every month.
The sheriff has ordered an internal review to find out why the established notification process wasn't followed in the Zamarripa-Castaneda case.
"During an internal review, it is not unusual to reassign deputies from current duties to other areas, when the underlying conduct under review is related to that particular assignment," the sheriff's department said in a statement.
"The internal review will be all inclusive looking at all aspects of the release notification process."
Zamarripa-Castaneda is due back in Denver District Court on April 2 for a preliminary hearing. If he fails to show up, a warrant will be issued for his arrest.AlertMe