Sunday, October 2, 2016
A report including details of the immigration history of a suspect in a fatal Des Moines crash was released Thursday.
The office of U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, released the preliminary report Thursday, which it received from the Department of Homeland Security after Grassley wrote a letter asking for background information on Fernando Fernel Lopez Aguilar.
Lopez Aguilar, 18, is accused of running a stop sign at Southeast Sixth Street and Bell Avenue, causing a three-vehicle crash Sept. 8. Police said he was driving too fast.
Lopez Aguilar was charged with homicide by reckless driving Monday after 12-year-old Lea Phann died Sunday night from injuries she suffered in the crash.
He had already been arrested on numerous other charges in connection with the crash.
The information released by Grassley's office Thursday states Lopez Aguilar entered the U.S. July 3, 2005, when he was 7, "at an unknown place, without having been admitted or paroled by an immigration officer."
On Oct. 8, 2013, Lopez Aguilar sought a temporary exemption from deportation under a policy known as DACA from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office, according to the report. On June 5, 2014, that deferred action was approved, valid until June 4, 2016.
"Lopez Aguilar apparently received deferred deportation protection under the Obama Administration’s executive action on immigration. However, he has since fallen out of status with the program and remains in the country illegally," Grassley's office said in a news release accompanying his letter Tuesday.
The report released Thursday also confirms Lopez Aguilar's two interactions with law enforcement in Iowa.
According to court records, Lopez Aguilar's only other criminal offense in Iowa appears to be a citation for possession of drug paraphernalia June 30 in Perry. Police did not take Lopez Aguilar into custody as a result of that citation. He made an appearance in court related to the case, which is pending.
Lopez Aguilar's immigration status was not questioned in that case, according to the report.
On Sept. 8, Lopez Aguilar was arrested following the crash at Southeast Sixth and Bell Avenue. On Sept. 9, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement placed an immigration hold, also called a detainer, on Lopez Aguilar, an ICE spokesman said Wednesday.Polk County Sheriff's Sgt. Brandon Bracelin, a spokesman for the Polk County Jail, said Tuesday night that the jail will notify ICE if Lopez Aguilar is able to post bail. He is in custody at the Polk County Jail on a $560,000 cash bond, according to jail records.
Lopez Aguilar faces criminal charges of homicide by reckless driving, two counts of serious injury by reckless driving, child endangerment, operating without a driver's license, and having no insurance.
A spokesman for Grassley's office said in an email Thursday that officials are still expecting more information on Lopez Aguilar's immigration history to be released by the Department of Homeland Security.
On Thursday night, for the second night in a row, a crowd of people gathered to remember Lea Phann, who friends have said was outgoing, fun and kind.
"She touched a lot lives," Kelly Phann, Lea's aunt, said at a candlelight vigil at the site of the crash on Thursday night. While many people in the crowd were friends and family, many others were random people who just went to the vigil to show their support, she said.
"It's great. ... I don't know where we'd be without all of this support," Kelly Phann said of her family.
Lea Phann's grandfather, Sos Phann, was also injured in the crash. He remains hospitalized with serious injuries, including a head injury, Kelly Phann said.
During the vigil, the crowd held candles and released dozens of balloons and paper lanterns into the air.
As some of the lanterns floated up into the sky, the crowd cheered, whistled and yelled.
"For you, Lea!" someone shouted.
The balloons were green, and many people in the crowd wore green, which was Phann's favorite color. Several others wore T-shirts with Phann's photo flanked by angel's wings on the front, and her softball number, 21, on the back.
Another candlelight vigil was also held Wednesday night for Phann, at a south Des Moines softball field with her softball teammates and many other friends.
To help the Phann family, a GoFundMe.com account is available online, accepting donations.
Friends hold a candlelight vigil to remember 12-year-old Lea Phann, who died in a car crash. Charly Haley / The Register