The 26-year-old linebacker was one of the two people killed when they were struck by a suspected drunk driver on I-70 early Sunday morning. Emma Kate Fittes/IndyStar Wochit Wochit
The man suspected of driving drunk and fatally striking an Indianapolis Colts player and his Uber driver early Sunday had twice been deported and was in the country illegally, police confirmed Monday.
Police say Manuel Orrego-Savala, 37, had a blood-alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit when he hit and killed Edwin Jackson, a 26-year-old Colts linebacker, and 54-year-old Jeffrey Monroe, Jackson's Uber driver, around 4 a.m. Sunday.
Orrego-Savala is from Guatemala, according to Indiana State Police. He was first deported in 2007 and again in 2009 following arrests in San Francisco, according to a spokesperson for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. ICE officials say Orrego-Savala has a prior conviction in California for driving under the influence.
The circumstances of his Sunday arrest emerged as the latest case to draw in politicians and activists, particularly as President Donald Trump and Congress debate immigration changes as another budget deadline looms this week.
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Vice President Mike Pence tweeted his condolences to Jackson's family Monday evening.
"This was a senseless & avoidable tragedy," Pence tweeted." This is a great loss for the entire Indiana community. My prayers are with his family in their time of grief."
Tuesday morning, Trump tweeted a condemnation of Orrego-Savala, followed by condolences to Jackson's family.
Supporters of reforms that would allow undocumented immigrants — and especially children — a path toward citizenship cautioned lawmakers not to conflate criminals with law-abiding children.
"I agree with current law that punishes people who do not follow the law," said Ana Kotchkoski, president of the Venezuelan Association of Indiana, which regularly lobbies on behalf of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients. "This goes against everything were trying to fight for and pursue for DACA."
In 2012, President Barack Obama created DACA through an executive order. The program allowed certain people who came to the U.S. illegally as minors to be protected from immediate deportation. The program has become a bargaining chip for Democrats, as President Trump and Congressional Republicans seek a budget deal to fund the construction of a wall on the southern border.
Meanwhile, supporters of the wall — and, more broadly, tougher immigration laws — pointed to the deaths of Jackson and Monroe as a reason for stricter border security.
“Their lives were taken by a twice-deported illegal immigrant who was not only two times the legal limit to drive, but attempted to flee the scene of the crime in a cowardly fashion," said Michael Joyce, Indiana communications director for the Republican National Committee, in a statement. "These horrific events only further underscore the need for immigration reform and stronger border security measures that can further prevent these tragedies from happening in the future.”
Orrego-Savala’s history in the U.S. dates back more than a decade. ICE spokesperson Nicole Alberico said in an email that Orrego-Savala is believed to have entered the country on or around July 1, 2004.
He was convicted of driving under the influence in Redwood City, Calif., in 2005, Alberico said. It was unclear what happened immediately following his conviction.
He was once again arrested by ICE in San Francisco in October 2006 for being in the country illegally. He was removed to Guatemala for the first time on Jan. 17, 2007.
He was again arrested by deportation officers in San Francisco on March 26, 2009, and was removed to Guatemala for the second time on May 12, 2009.
It is unknown when he returned to the U.S. and at what point he arrived in Indiana.
According to the state police, the crash happened shortly before 4 a.m. Sunday along the westbound lanes of I-70, just west of Holt Road.
Jackson and Monroe, of Avon, were standing near Monroe's stopped vehicle when Orrego-Savala's Ford F-150 pick-up truck drove onto the emergency shoulder and struck them both.
Investigators believe Monroe pulled to the side of the road when Jackson became ill, and that Monroe got out of his car to assist Jackson.
Orrego-Savala tried to run away but was arrested soon after on the ramp to Holt Road, police said. He used the fake name of Alex Cabrera-Gonsales, police said.
One of the two victims was thrown into the center lane of I-70 during the crash, ISP Sgt. John Perrine said in a statement. A state trooper, who spotted the crash along the right side of the road, struck the body of a victim in the center lane, Perrine said. Police did not say which victim was struck.
Manuel Orrego-Savala's blood-alcohol level was .239 percent, according to a preliminary probable cause affidavit filed in Marion Superior Court. In Indiana, a driver is presumed intoxicated at 0.08 percent.
Indiana advocates for the rights of the undocumented sought to separate the issue of drunken driving from illegal immigration.
"The tragedy here is that this young man lost his life due to the negligence of someone who decided to drive under the influence," said Francine Dash, a spokeswoman for Faith in Indiana. "Legal status is not the culprit here; drunk driving is."
“There are no excuses to drink and drive," said Marlene Dotson, president and CEO of the Indiana Latino Institute. "It impacts the entire community."
More than 10,000 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That represented one-third of all traffic deaths in the United States.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement did not return calls by IndyStar. Much of Orrego-Savala's background, including how much time he spent in Guatemala, is unknown at this point.
Immigration to the U.S. from the Northern Triangle — Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras — grew by 25 percent over the eight-year period from 2005 to 2017, according to the Pew Research Center.
Although violence tends to be the oft-cited cause for immigration from these three countries, Guatemala saw a slight decrease in violence in 2017, according to InSight Crime, a foundation studying organized crime in Central America.
However, poverty runs rampant in Guatemala. In 2014, the year for which data is most recently available, more than a quarter of the country’s population lives on roughly $3 a day, according to the World Bank. Only the top 10 percent of the country’s population is considered middle class or wealthy.
Orrego-Savala has not been formally charged by the Marion County prosecutor's office. Prosecutors were granted a continuance, moving his initial hearing to Wednesday morning, according to the office.
He's being held in Marion County Jail. State police are working with federal immigration officials, Perrine said.
IndyStar reporter Ryan Martin contributed to this story.
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