NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -- A man charged with killing three people in Missouri this month should have faced deportation proceedings after he was arrested last year for a separate offense in New Jersey, instead of being released, federal immigration officials said Friday.
Twenty-three-year-old Luis Perez, who is from Mexico, is charged with fatally shooting two men and wounding two others Nov. 1 and then fatally shooting a woman the next day. He is jailed without bond on 11 felonies, including first-degree murder and assault. No attorney is listed for him in online court records.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said they placed a detainer on Perez in December after he was jailed in Middlesex County, New Jersey, on multiple felonies, including assault. But Perez was released in February.
"Had ICE's detainer request in December 2017 been honored by Middlesex County Jail, Luis Rodrigo Perez would have been placed in deportation proceedings and likely sent home to his country -- and three innocent people might be alive today," said Corey Price, ICE's acting executive associate director.
The Perez case is a microcosm of the tug of war being waged nationally between federal immigration authorities and local communities that have limited cooperation with ICE. ICE has railed against so-called "sanctuary cities" and policies it says compromise public safety; immigrant advocates argue the agency targets suspects who have been charged but not yet found guilty, depriving them of the right to contest the charges.
Middlesex County adopted a policy last year that honors detainer requests from ICE if the inmate has previously been convicted of a first- or second-degree offense or was the subject of a final order of deportation signed by a federal judge.
In the case of Perez, county officials said via email from a spokeswoman Friday, ICE was advised the county wouldn't honor its detainer request in December because it didn't meet the necessary criteria. During the ensuing 51 days Perez was in custody, officials wrote, ICE didn't request an order of deportation from a federal judge.
"This order would have authorized Middlesex County to turn over custody of Mr. Perez prior to, or upon completion of his sentence," they wrote. "Instead ICE officials chose to do nothing, which places all responsibility of Mr. Perez's actions squarely upon ICE.
According to authorities in Missouri, Perez opened fire on Steven Marler, 38, and Aaron Hampton, 23, at their home in Springfield, Missouri, on Nov. 1. Two other people were wounded but survived. Perez then shot and killed Sabrina Starr, 21, a day later at her house, the documents say. Perez faces eight other felony counts in the shootings.
Aaron Anderson, 19, told investigators he was waiting with Starr in an SUV outside Hampton and Marler's home when Perez shot them. Anderson said he was on the phone with Perez at the time and that he could hear the victims "begging for their lives."
Anderson was charged as an accomplice with two counts of first-degree murder in those killings and three other felonies.
Police also said Perez's girlfriend, Dalia Garcia, arrived on a bus from New Jersey and helped to burn evidence. She was charged with tampering with evidence and jailed on $75,000 bond.