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The father of a homeless woman killed by an alleged drunk driver called for retribution on Monday, as the suspected killer appeared in court for the first time.
Enrique Rodriguez Jr., 24, was arraigned Monday on four counts of first degree manslaughter, second degree assault, reckless driving and driving under the influence.
Oregon prosecutors claim he was driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.26 – more than three times the legal limit – when he crashed into a homeless camp in Salem, ramming his sports coupe into several of the tents and pinning victims under his car early Sunday morning.
Four people were killed in the tragic crash, including: Jowand Beck, 24; Luke Kagey, 21; Joe Posada III, 54; and Rochelle Zamacona, 29.
Two other people, 43-year-old Derrick Hart and 18-year-old Savannah Miller were injured and remained in the hospital on Monday, KATU reports.
The victims’ families argued to Judge Jennifer Gardiner at the Marion County Circuit Court on Monday that Rodriguez should not be allowed bail for his alleged crime, with Zamacona’s father, Eduardo, claiming he may flee to Mexico – which one of Rodriguez’s family members said was ‘racist.’
‘He’s going to go to Mexico or somewhere where we can’t take care of him,’ Eduardo argued, referring to Rodriguez as a ‘piece of f****** trash.’
‘I wish I could kill his f***** family,’ he continued, as one of Rodriguez’s family members could be heard in video from the courtroom saying: ‘I’m right here, brother.’
Enrique Rodriguez Jr., 24, appeared in court for the first time on Monday after he allegedly drove drunk into a Salem, Oregon homeless camp, killing four people and injuring two others
One of the victim’s fathers, Eduardo Zamacona, claimed in court that Rodriguez should not be granted bail because he is likely to flee to Mexico
By the end of the court proceeding Monday, Judge Jennifer Gardiner denied Rodriguez bail
At that point, Eduardo could be seen glaring toward the apparent family member before the judge could be heard in video from the courtroom trying to break up any potential fight, pleading: ‘Hold on, hold on, stop, we’re not doing this.’
‘I can tell by looking at you, your face is shaking, you’re obviously very upset,’ Judge Gardiner told Eduardo, according to the Statesman Journal.
‘I understand that. I am so sorry that you’re here and I am so sorry that this happened to your family.
‘Part of my job is to make sure you’re respected and that everyone in this courtroom’s respected.’
Miller’s mother also joined in the court proceedings by phone, saying: ‘We would just hope that the court would understand that with the loss of four innocent people and the extent of my daughter’s injuries as well as others, that we do not feel that bail is warranted at this time.’
Prosecutors also argued that Rodriguez has previously been found in violation of various traffic laws dating back to 2014, including driving without a valid license and careless driving.
By the end of the court hearing, Judge Gardiner denied Rodriguez bail.
But outside of the court, Rodriguez’s mother, Maria Arreze claimed her son was not a murderer – and said the city should also be at fault.
She said there ‘shouldn’t have been’ a homeless camp on Front Street, telling KOIN: ‘I want the city to be held accountable as well because they have all these people running around like crazy.
‘It’s not fair that he’s only getting the fault for this,’ she said. ‘They’re wrong.’
Eduardo’s daughter, Rochelle, 29, pictured in an undated photo, died in the crash
Authorities say Rodriguez rammed into the homeless camp at around 2am Sunday, flattening some of the tents before crashing into a tree
Four people died in the crash and two others were injured, remaining in the hospital on Monday
The tragic crash happened at about 2 a.m. Sunday near the intersection of Front Street and Highway 99 East at a homeless camp on a small triangle of trees and grass owned by the Oregon Department of Transportation.
Eyewitness Nathan Rose told the Salem Statesman Journal that he and his girlfriend were in their tent when they heard two loud thuds. The car just missed their tent, he added, before hitting a tree.
Rose also said he saw some of his friends pinned underneath the vehicle and called 911 before pulling one person out from under the car, though witnesses were unable to help the others.
‘From there, it was just chaos,’ Rose told the newspaper.
Two people who were at the encampment died at the scene.
Four others were taken to Salem Health with with life-threatening injuries and two died at the hospital.
Rodriguez was also taken to the hospital in the aftermath. He was the only person in the vehicle, authorities claim.
The camp, near the intersection of Front Street and Highway 99 East, is located on Oregon Department of Transportation property
Debris was thrown across the 300-strong encampment after the crash early Sunday morning
Oregon Department of Transportation officials were in the process of trying to clear the homeless camp when Rodriguez allegedly rammed through it, they revealed on Monday.
They told KATU they had posted the camp for removal on March 17, but had to give the campers 10 days to leave – meaning the earliest the state could have cleared the camp was on Monday.
Meanwhile, local governments in Oregon are grappling with how to best deal with the state’s rising homeless problem before a new law that protects homeless people sleeping in public goes into effect next year.
Gov. Kate Brown signed a bill into law last year that would protect homeless campers in public spaces from being removed.
It mandates that any city or county law must be reasonable if it regulates ‘sitting, lying, sleeping or keeping warm and dry outdoors on public property.’
The Marion County Board of Commissioners opposed it, however, saying it ‘would limit local control of the homeless crisis facing Oregon.’
More than 1,000 people sleep outside in the Salem area on any given night, according to the Statesman.
The city has a population of over 175,000, according to the 2020 U.S. census.
Source: Daily Mail