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Driver who overstayed work visa fined $280 for fatally striking FBI agent, fire investigator

A negligent driver paid a $280 fine and served no jail time after killing an FBI agent and a fire marshal on the side of a highway. (razihusin/Getty Images)

A $280 fine and negligent driving charge was given to the driver of a Honda Accord who fatally struck an FBI agent and a fire investigator who were standing along the left shoulder of a Maryland highway, according to published reports.

Roberto Garza Palacios, 28, was not required to appear in court, nor did he receive any jail time, the Washington Post reported.

Although he drove in a “careless and imprudent manner," prosecutors did not believe his driving constituted a “reckless disregard” for human life, which would have carried more serious charges, the report stated.

Palacios was driving south on Interstate 270 in Montgomery County when he struck the two-off duty law enforcement officers: Carlos Wolff, 36, and Sander Cohen, 33. Both men were standing on the shoulder near their personal vehicles.

How did this happen?

Wolff, an FBI agent, had crashed his car into a concrete median after he reached for his cellphone and became distracted. Cohen, an arson investigator, pulled over to help and put on his car's hazard lights to warn other drivers, according to the report.

As Palacios drove toward the two cars, he failed to react quickly, according to reports. He said he tried to react by swerving to the right, but a car was in the lane next to him. He then veered left and hit Wolff and Cohen, sending them over a concrete median. Palacious told investigators he did not see the men.

Wolff died at a hospital. Cohen was propelled into the path of northbound interstate traffic and hit by another car. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The state police investigation into the December crash also determined the driver of the northbound car was driving within the speed limit when the two men were propelled over the median. That driver did nothing wrong, the investigation found.

Why was Palacious considered to be in the country illegally?

Palacios, a Guatemalan native, faces possible deportation, according to the Washington Post.

Officers from Immigration and Customs Enforcement took Palacios into custody at his Gaithersburg home in May and charged him with “overstaying and violating the terms of a work visa that had expired in 2009,” according to the report.

Three years ago, ICE learned Palacios was arrested in Montgomery County. Agents asked jail officials to hold him but instead, Palacios was released, according to the report.

"Because the person who caused the accident really didn't get punished, it doesn't feel like there's closure," Sander Cohen's father, Neil Cohen, told WRC-TV.

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