WEEDSPORT NY (WHAM) – A man investigators say is an undocumented immigrant who was arrested for DWI in October, has been accused of driving drunk and causing a deadly crash in Weedsport over the weekend. Federal immigration officials say the state never should’ve released him from custody.
Cayuga County Sheriff Brian Schenck says Heriberto R. Perez-Velasquez, 31, hit a man driving a compact tractor from behind around 1:45 p.m. Sunday on Rt. 31 in Weedsport.
Mark Knapp, 59, of Weedsport, was ejected and died at the scene, according to the Sheriff.
Knapp was a longtime IBEW Local 43 member, a father, and a husband.
Investigators say Perez-Velasquez ran from the crash but was caught nearby by deputies with the help of a passerby.
Perez-Velasquez has been charged with second-degree vehicular manslaughter, felony driving while intoxicated, leaving the scene of a personal injury accident and failure to use a designated lane.
Sheriff Schenck says Perez-Velasquez is an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala and has another pending charge for Aggravated Driving While intoxicated in Wayne County.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said in a statement Thursday that they were never notified of Perez-Velasquez’s arrest in October and criticized state and county leaders for letting him go on an appearance ticket.
“Had Mr. Perez-Velasquez been detained by ICE after his October 2019, DUI arrest, a life might have been spared,” said Acting ICE Director Matt Albence. “Sanctuary jurisdictions that do not honor detainers or allow us access to jails and prisons are shielding criminal aliens from immigration enforcement and jeopardizing the lives of law-abiding citizens.”
Our news partners at The Times of Wayne County report the October charge stems from an incident in which the defendant’s vehicle was allegedly found stopped on Route 89 in Butler on October 18.
State Police say Perez-Velasquez was operating the vehicle, and that he appeared to be under the influence of alcohol. When the trooper at the scene tried taking him into custody, Perez-Velasquez allegedly fled on foot. He was taken into custody a short distance from the scene.
A breath test reportedly determined the defendant had a BAC of .22 percent.
Perez-Velasquez was charged with aggravated DWI and resisting arrests, both misdemeanors, and traffic infractions.
State Police say they contacted U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, but officials were not able to question Perez-Velasquez at that time and requested he be detained.
Troopers say the defendant was taken to Wayne County Centralized Arraignment Processing Court but was deemed ineligible for pre-arraignment detention “under the court’s policies”. It’s unclear why he was not eligible.
The Wayne County District Attorney says he recommended arraignment and a bond, but instead, New York State Police say central arraignment declined the case based on the upcoming bail reform law and gave him an appearance ticket instead.
Judge Craig Doran, administrative judge for the 7th Judicial District, said he was made aware of the matter Wednesday afternoon and is looking into the October incident, as well as any involvement Perez-Velasquez may have had with Wayne County courts.
Albence also said Perez-Valesquez was arrested by border patrol agents in May 2007 and deported to Guatemala later that month. They say they do not know when he re-entered the U.S. illegally again.
Perez-Velasquez is being held at the Cayuga County Jail on $50,000 bail. He is scheduled to appear in the Village of Weedsport Court on November 15.
ICE has issued a detainer and “warrant of removal” with the Cayuga County Sheriff’s Office.