Suspect in light-rail station murder was a known “immigration enforcement priority”

The Denver Sheriff’s Department sent ICE a fax to tell them Valles had posted $5,000 bond, but ICE says it didn’t see the fax in time to act on it.

Ever Valles. (Courtesy of Denver DA's Office)

Ever Valles, one of two men charged in the murder of Tim Cruz at the Sheridan light-rail station earlier this month, was a known “immigration enforcement priority” when he left the downtown Denver jail just before Christmas last year.

As 9News first reported, the Denver Sheriff’s Department sent Immigration and Customs Enforcement a fax to tell them that 19-year old Valles, who was accused of car theft, had posted $5,000 bond, but ICE says it didn’t see the fax in time to act on it.

It was sent at 11:33 p.m., 26 minutes before 19-year-old Valles was released, according to 9News.

Ever Valles. (Courtesy of Denver DA's Office)
Ever Valles. (Courtesy of Denver DA’s Office)

“The Denver Sheriff Department balances the rights of persons in our custody with requests from other jurisdictions. But we are part of the criminal justice system and do not hold people on civil matters,” the department said in a statement. “In the case of Ever Valles, ICE was notified by fax that Mr. Valles was being released prior to his release. Denver has never and will never advocate for felons to remain on our streets — immigrants or not. However, we work to protect residents who are playing by the rules, working hard every day, providing for their families.”

ICE told 9News in a statement that the agency believes Denver failed to honor a detainer it placed on Valles when he was first arrested for car theft in October. It also said Valles was believed to be a “gang member whose gang history is documented in the Colorado gang database.”

Valles and Nathan Valdez, also 19, are charged with felony murder in the fatal shooting of 32-year-old Cruz.

We’ve reached out to ICE. We’ll update this story as we learn more.

Simon Crittle, spokesman for the Sheriff Department, said, “Obviously this is a very big deal and we are looking very closely at circumstances surrounding Mr. Valles release.”

The department also shared a copy of the fax along with its statement on Facebook last night.

Earlier this year, Crittle told Denverite, “We don’t hold people on civil matters. If someone is charged with a crime, they can be incarcerated. Immigration authorities might, or might not, be interested in some people charged with crimes. … We don’t believe we have the authority to hold someone on a civil matter.”

That was back when Trump first signed order to block funding to sanctuary cities and Denver began to grapple with what it means to be a sanctuary city and whether or not it even is one. (It is.)

As we pointed out then, the Washington Post has an explanation and some helpful flow charts of what happens when an immigrant is arrested and accused of a crime.

Here’s the gist of it:

The fingerprints of people booked into county jails are shared with the FBI, who shares those fingerprints with Immigrations and Custom Enforcement. This information sharing is mandatory.

If a person is not in the country legally, ICE can submit a detainer request to local authorities. This is ICE asking the local jail to hold the person for 48 hours so the agency can get a warrant for deportation proceedings. Courts have repeatedly found that complying with these requests is not mandatory, and many cities and counties don’t.

A detainer is not a warrant, though, and Denver’s position is that it’s both illegal and unconstitutional to hold people without a warrant.

It’s unclear right now how ICE would have proceeded in Valles’ case had the fax from the Sheriff Department been seen in time.

Ashley Dean

Author: Ashley Dean

Ashley Dean covers culture and other odds and ends. She previously covered music and did some copy editing for the Denver Post, the Colorado Daily and the Daily Camera. She's from New York, likes her bourbon straight and has strong opinions about Kanye West. She can be reached at adean@denverite.com, 303-502-2804 or @AshleyDean.