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Man who allegedly drove under the influence and killed a Washington state trooper is an illegal alien
Composite screenshot of KCPQ-TV video (Left: Trooper Christopher Gadd | Right: Raul Benitez Santana)

Man who allegedly drove under the influence and killed a Washington state trooper is an illegal alien

The man accused of driving the vehicle that caused the recent death of a Washington state trooper is in the United States illegally, ICE has confirmed.

Around 3 a.m. on Saturday, Christopher Gadd, a 27-year-old trooper with the Washington State Patrol, was sitting in his patrol vehicle parked on the shoulder of southbound I-5 near Marysville, Washington, about 40 miles north of Seattle, looking out for speeders and drunk drivers. Suddenly, an SUV moving at high speed and perhaps with no lights on came barreling along the shoulder and struck Gadd's patrol car from behind.

The SUV then spun out before coming to a stop in the far-left lane. At that point, another vehicle with six passengers aboard slammed into it. The driver of the third vehicle suffered a broken wrist, but thankfully, no one else in that vehicle was injured.

Unfortunately, Trooper Gadd was not so lucky. When deputies arrived, they found him still in his patrol car. The nature of his injuries has not been reported, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Alex Asadi, who witnessed the crash, attempted to render aid. "I called out to him a few times, and he didn’t respond to me, and I was watching his stomach for movement, nothing," he said, according to KCPQ-TV. "His right hand was kind of down here by the window, so I reached over and checked his pulse."

"It is with a heavy heart that we report we lost a brother today," said WSP spokesperson Chris Loftis. "The troopers sign up for danger. They are brave people."

Gadd leaves behind a wife and a 2-year-old daughter. He had been on the force for just two years at the time of his death.

The driver of the SUV, 32-year-old Raul Benitez Santana, was immediately arrested and taken to a nearby hospital for treatment for undisclosed, minor injuries. He has since been booked into the Snohomish County Jail on one count of vehicular homicide and one count of vehicular assault. His bail has been set at $1 million.

At a preliminary hearing, his attorney claimed that the crash was a tragic accident, arguing that Benitez Santana could not have seen Gadd's vehicle because its lights were not on. However, one witness claimed that the suspect was driving at "full speed" down the shoulder, which prosecutors alleged he treated as a traffic lane.

A breathalyzer test administered hours after the crash did indicate that Benitez Santana's blood alcohol level was under the legal limit of .08, but police said that his eyes were bloodshot that night and that he admitted to smoking marijuana and drinking two beers at about 9 p.m. the night before.

After word of the fatal crash spread, Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that it had issued a detainer for Benitez Santana, who is a Mexican national in the U.S. illegally.

ICE did not say when he entered our country, though he has been here more than a decade, as evidenced by the many encounters he has had with law enforcement. Dating back to 2013, when he first came on the radar of Seattle Enforcement and Removal Operations, a division of ICE, he has been ticketed for driving nearly 50 mph over the posted speed limit and convicted of driving with a suspended license, possession of marijuana, and failure to appear in court. In 2019, he was also arrested for domestic violence, but whether he was ever convicted is unclear.

"As one of the operational directorates associated with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ERO Seattle lodges immigration detainers against noncitizens who have been arrested for criminal activity and taken into custody by state or local law enforcement," an ERO spokesperson said in a statement. "An immigration detainer is a request from ICE to state or local law enforcement agencies to notify ICE as early as possible before a removable noncitizen is released, allowing ERO to assume custody for possible removal to the subject’s home country in accordance with federal law."

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