LAS CRUCES - A judge ordered the man who police say crashed an SUV full of people at the outset of a Border Patrol chase to stay in jail until the court can resolve his case.
Julio Garcia Rascon, 19, of Ciudad Juárez, is charged with two counts of homicide by vehicle, 10 counts of great bodily injury by vehicle, and one count of reckless driving. Police believe Garcia Rascon piloted a 2002 Chevrolet Tahoe SUV carrying 12 other passengers on July 27. They believe Garcia Rascon rolled the vehicle in Santa Teresa, killing Jorge Garcia-Vazquez, 24, and Guadalupe Cruze-Vazquez, 18, from Mexico.
According to an affidavit penned by NMPS Patrol Officer Tommy Vigil, the incident began around 5 a.m. July 27 when a Border Patrol agent tried to pull over the Tahoe eastbound on State Road 9 near Mile Marker 146. The chase lasted about 10 minutes, according to testimony in Friday's hearing. However, the Border Patrol agent lost sight of the Tahoe as the chase neared the Santa Teresa city limits after deciding to end the pursuit.
Vigil wrote that shortly after the agent lost sight of the Tahoe, a large dust cloud rose in the distance. The Tahoe had crashed into an electric pole near Airport Road and McNutt Road intersection. EMTs transported Garcia Rascon and nine passengers to an El Paso hospital via helicopter and ambulance, according to an NMSP news release.
The Mexican Consulate in El Paso said in a statement following the crash that nine of the people injured were Mexican citizens.
On Friday, 3rd Judicial District Judge Richard Jacquez ruled on whether to detain Garcia Rascon until the court resolved his case. Pretrial detention - which is not intended to be punitive - requires prosecutors to prove two points.
First, prosecutors must prove that the defendant is dangerous. Then, prosecutors must prove that no conditions of release, such as an ankle monitor or regular check-ins with the pretrial services office, could protect the public and that the defendant will return to court for subsequent hearings.
In their motion requesting a Jacquez detain Garcia Rascon, prosecutors pointed to two factors.
For one, they said that Garcia Rascon's decision to flee from the pursuing Border Patrol agent suggested he had "no regard for authority or the safety and well-being of others."
Second, prosecutors pointed to the man's country of residence. Prosecutors said that Garcia Rascon has no ties on this side of the border and faces a substantial amount of prison time if convicted.
"Those factors, coupled with the brazen and reckless manner in which he fled from authorities, indicates that he should be considered a substantial flight risk," the pretrial detention motion stated.
Heather Chavez, the chief deputy district attorney, called two Border Patrol agents involved in the chase and the New Mexico State Police officer who investigated the crash to testify in the hearing.
Both agents said the Tahoe traveled around 90 to 100 miles per hour. They characterized the driving as erratic and said the Tahoe seldom braked during the chase.
However, during the two-hour hearing, questions arose about how the police knew that Garcia Rascon drove the Tahoe during the chase. The case's lead investigator, Vigil, said that he believed Garcia Rascon was the driver for two reasons.
First, Vigil said that Border Patrol Agent Raul Herrera interviewed Rascon Garcia's brother. After first saying he was one of the people being smuggled, the brother told Herrera that he and his brother were the smugglers. The brother was the only person in the rolled Tahoe to be uninjured. Second, Vigil said that Garcia Rascon confessed to being the driver to a Homeland Security investigator.
Ultimately, Jacquez felt this was enough for him to believe that Garcia Rascon drove the Tahoe. Jacquez said that Garcia Rascon presented a danger to the public because of his alleged conduct during the chase and after Border Patrol ended the pursuit.
Jacquez also found that no conditions of release would ensure Garcia Rascon would comply with court orders. Again, he said that Garcia Rascon's decision not to stop when agents tried to pull him over suggested he would not follow court orders.
Chavez said that Garcia Rascon was also facing federal charges at the outset of the hearing.
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Justin Garcia covers crime, courts and public safety. He can be reached via email at JEGarcia@lcsun-news.com.
This article originally appeared on Las Cruces Sun-News: Judge rules on whether to detain man accused of killing two following Border Patrol chase