Immigrant involved in Colts’ linebacker crash had been deported twice

Updated February 6, 2018 - 10:07 pm

INDIANAPOLIS — An immigrant who was living illegally in Indiana when he was arrested in a drunken-driving crash that killed an NFL player had a history of misdemeanor convictions and arrests, including two previous instances of driving under the influence, authorities said Tuesday.

President Donald Trump drew added attention to the death of Indianapolis Colts linebacker Edwin Jackson on Twitter, calling the collision “disgraceful.” The president also prodded Democrats to work with him on illegal immigration and border security.

The driver believed to be responsible for Sunday’s crash on Interstate 70 in Indianapolis had been deported twice in the last decade.

Trump tweeted Tuesday: “So disgraceful that a person illegally in our country killed Colts linebacker Edwin Jackson. This is just one of many such preventable tragedies. We must get the Dems to get tough on the Border, and with illegal immigration, FAST!”

In a second tweet, he added, “My prayers and best wishes are with the family of Edwin Jackson, a wonderful young man whose life was so senselessly taken. Colts.”

The collision also killed Jackson’s Uber driver, Jeffrey Monroe, who was not mentioned by the president.

Since the 2016 campaign, Trump has regularly pointed to crimes connected to illegal immigration as evidence that the U.S. needs to build a wall along the Mexican border and tighten immigration policies. As president, he has threatened to withhold federal funding to cities with sanctuary city policies.

The man suspected of causing the collision, 37-year-old Manuel Orrego-Savala, had a 2005 conviction for driving under the influence in Redwood City, California. He also has numerous other misdemeanor convictions and arrests in California and Indiana, said Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Nicole Alberico.

In the 2005 case, he pleaded no contest to two separate drunken driving offenses and was given a brief jail sentence, San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said Tuesday.

Orrego-Savala remained jailed in Indianapolis but had not been formally charged in the crash. Prosecutors said they were working with police on the investigation.

The suspect appeared Tuesday before a judge who advised him of his rights. Indianapolis television station WRTV reported that Orrego-Savala told the judge through an interpreter: “I wasn’t driving the car. I don’t know why I am here.” Another court hearing was scheduled for Wednesday.

The Guatemala citizen, who gave officers a fake name when he was arrested, was deported in 2007 and 2009, police said.

Jackson, 26, and Monroe, 54, were standing outside Monroe’s car along I-70 after Jackson became ill while Monroe was transporting him for the ride-hailing company, police said.

Both men were struck and killed by a pickup truck driven by Orrego-Savala, police said. Investigators said they believe Orrego-Savala, who lives in Indianapolis, was intoxicated and driving without a license.

A breath test administered at the crash scene found that Orrego-Savala’s blood-alcohol content was almost 0.24 percent, or nearly three times Indiana’s legal limit of 0.08 percent, according to an affidavit.

Orrego-Savala had prior run-ins with law enforcement for driving without a valid license, the affidavit said.

The state trooper who discovered the wreckage shortly before 4 a.m. Sunday accidentally struck one of the victims before he could stop, police said.

State Police Sgt. John Perrine did not immediately disclose Tuesday whether Jackson or Monroe were struck by the trooper’s car, but he said investigators believe that man was already dead when the trooper’s car hit him in the center lane. He said a coroner will be looking into that victim’s specific cause of death.

Orrego-Savala was walking away from the crash scene when the same trooper detained him.

Republican Indiana Rep. Todd Rokita said that “the loss of life at the hands of illegal immigrant criminals should make all Hoosiers sad and ultimately angry.”

The crash highlights the need for building a U.S.-Mexico border wall, “ending sanctuary cities and stopping illegal immigration once and for all,” he said in a statement.

The fatalities come about two months after a California jury acquitted a Mexican man in the fatal July 2015 shooting of a woman on a San Francisco pier — a death that touched off a fierce national immigration debate.

Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, who was acquitted of murder on Nov. 30 in Kate Steinle’s death, had been deported five times and was wanted for a sixth deportation when she was fatally shot. Garcia Zarate said the shooting was accidental and occurred when picked up a gun wrapped in a T-shirt under a seat on the pier.

Steinle’s death was often cited by Trump as a reason to crack down on illegal immigration.

Jackson, who grew up in Atlanta, started eight games for the Colts during the 2016 season, finishing third on the team with 61 tackles. He was considered a possible starter at inside linebacker for the 2017 season but missed the season after suffering an injury during training camp.

The 6-foot, 234-pound athlete previously played for the Arizona Cardinals.

Colts owner Jim Irsay has offered to pay for both Jackson and Monroe’s funerals, the team’s chief operating officer, Pete Ward, said.

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