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  1. #1
    Administrator Jean's Avatar
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    Police Worry Immigrants' Help in Cases Will Dry Up

    Police Worry Immigrants' Help in Cases Will Dry Up

    By Dan Morse
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Tuesday, April 15, 2008; B01



    Of all the notable details in Montgomery County's latest murder trial -- a telltale sandwich left in a Chevy Chase refrigerator, a smoldering body 18 miles away, a delusional suspect who claimed that the slain man's watch was about to explode -- perhaps nothing stands out more than this: Detectives might not have cracked the case without the help of an immigrant day laborer they know only as Sam.

    The case illustrates precisely the type of cooperation that might be diminished if police are asked to step up enforcement of immigration laws, some law enforcement officials said. The trial ended this month with the conviction of a Honduran immigrant in the slaying of a carpenter who had hired him.

    "Without the cooperation of that day laborer, that murder goes unsolved," Montgomery State's Attorney John McCarthy said. "It's that pure and simple."

    Many officials say that if police increase enforcement of immigration laws, it will boost public safety overall. But law enforcement leaders in Montgomery and parts of Northern Virginia aren't so sure, fearing that it might intimidate witnesses and victims. The departments are attempting to assure immigrants that cooperating with police will not lead to deportation.

    A recent public-service announcement on cable television in Montgomery featured Police Chief J. Thomas Manger and Jaime Moreno, a native of Bolivia who plays for Washington's professional soccer team, D.C. United.

    "Don't be afraid to call police!" they say in unison.

    In Prince William County, an ordinance that took effect last month requires police to check the residency status of crime suspects, even those detained for traffic offenses, if officers think they might be in the country illegally.

    Anecdotally, the policy appears to be making police work more challenging, said 1st Sgt. Kim Chinn, a county police spokeswoman. Several days ago, she said, officers had trouble identifying a body found in the woods because the dead man's family would not cooperate, Chinn said.

    Police Chief Charlie T. Deane, who last year warned that such a policy could have "a potential chilling effect," has been speaking to community groups and through Spanish-language media, telling them that victims and witnesses will be protected regardless of their status.

    Corey A. Stewart, chairman of the Board of County Supervisors and a leading proponent of increasing police enforcement of immigration laws, acknowledged that some witnesses or victims might be hesitant to cooperate.

    "It's complicated and difficult," he said, "but the benefits to public safety far outweigh the drawbacks. . . . Not all illegal immigrants come here just to work."

    Montgomery is among jurisdictions that don't have such policies, but officials worry that crime victims and witnesses might assume it does.

    The Montgomery murder trial centered on events that took place in August 2005 at a home on a quiet street in Chevy Chase.

    The homeowners had arranged to have their wood floors refinished by Hak Bong Kim, a Korean immigrant and carpenter, while they were traveling. They returned to find the work incomplete. Kim, 55, was missing, and there were spots of blood in the house, including the interior of an oven.

    In the refrigerator, police officers found a bag from a 7-Eleven store. The contents: two pre-made submarine sandwiches, a bottle of Coke, a bottle of Gatorade and two plastic packages of Crack N' Snack hard-boiled eggs. Outside the house, the covering for a barbecue grill was missing.

    Meanwhile, in Fairfax County, another investigation was underway after the discovery of a body in the woods. Michael Schatz, a 29-year resident of Annandale, was walking his mixed-breed border collie outside his townhouse. Something caught the dog's attention, and soon Schatz saw a dark mass that he initially took for an animal.

    "As I got closer, I realized it wasn't an animal," Schatz testified in Circuit Court, his voice trembling.

    Schatz called 911, reporting that he had found a burnt human body.

    Back in Montgomery, Detective Patrick McNerney heard about the body. He learned from Dennis Harris, a Fairfax detective, that an odd material had been found next to it.

    "Could it be a grill cover?" McNerney asked Harris, according to both detectives' recollections.

    At the Chevy Chase house, detectives went to work on the contents of the refrigerator.

    They learned that the missing carpenter in the past had picked up day laborers at a 7-Eleven in Annandale. Sales records from the convenience store pinpointed the date and time that the particular combination of items -- subs, Coke, Gatorade and eggs -- was sold.

    Soon detectives were watching a video surveillance recording of the cash register at the moment of the transaction. They spotted a Korean man, who looked like Kim, and a shorter Hispanic man.

    Detectives captured the image and copied it onto a flier printed in Spanish, which was distributed in the area of the convenience store.

    The first break came from Sam, a day laborer who told an officer that he knew the man pictured on the flier. Sam -- detectives never learned his last name -- led them to a man who said he believed he knew where the suspect was staying.

    At that townhouse development, the detectives eventually spotted the suspect approaching on a bicycle. Carlos Bustamante-Mendieta soon confessed, police said.

    He also told investigators that he believed Kim's watch was going to explode and that he had once seen Kim in his native Honduras, police said. Bustamante-Mendieta was later described by his attorney as schizophrenic.

    Detectives pieced together the gruesome details. At the Chevy Chase job site, Kim apparently caught the suspect trying to steal jewelry and confronted him. Bustamante-Mendieta stabbed the carpenter seven times and then tried to stuff him into the oven. Bustamante-Mendieta placed Kim's body in the grill cover and drove to Annandale, where he dug a shallow grave, doused the body in gasoline and set it on fire.

    On April 2, Bustamante-Mendieta, 32, was convicted of first-degree murder. Sam, who was not asked to testify during the trial, refused to accept a $1,000 reward, detectives said.

    Such cooperation might already be waning, even if stepped-up enforcement is in other jurisdictions, according to Detective John Vickery, a Spanish-speaking Fairfax officer. "I've seen the hesitation," he said. "It affects how I do my cases."

    But 1st Lt. Richard Perez, another Spanish-speaking officer in Fairfax, said the department as a whole appears to be getting the same level of cooperation as before. Perez attributes that in large part to outreach efforts at day laborers' gatherings, Latino churches and Latino business groups and in Spanish-language media.

    After this month's verdict in Montgomery, the state's attorney asked Marybeth Ayres, one of the prosecutors in the case, whether Sam, the pivotal day laborer, was in the country legally.

    "By the way, what's his status?" McCarthy asked.

    "I don't know," she answered.

    That, McCarthy said of such a helpful source, is just the point.

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  2. #2
    Senior Member USA_born's Avatar
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    This is a feeble excuse for not enforcing our immigration laws. This kind of thinking only makes matters worse.

  3. #3
    2manyia-lasvegas's Avatar
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    I hope so

    I only hope ALL illegal aliens would dry up and blow away. More criminal testifing against criminals, and we all know you can't trust a criminal.
    <div>Do your job and enforce the law!
    Many thanks to the young that have served our country, and to those of you that have lost, we all owe you, thank you</div>

  4. #4
    Senior Member agrneydgrl's Avatar
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    Blah Blah Blah. If we didn't have illegals they wouldn't be afraid to tell.

  5. #5

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    So one illegal kills this guy and tries to stuff him in an oven then another illegal turns him in and we are supposed to give him medal or something? How about this- if NEITHER ONE of them had been here none of this would have happened.

  6. #6
    Senior Member miguelina's Avatar
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    Excuses, excuses. They can call in tips anonymously or have a legal relative call in. Why don't we try it an see how it works?

    Nothing should be a higher priority than the public safety of citizens.

    I also find it ironic that most of these crimes are committed by illegal aliens. If illegal aliens were reported and deported, those specific crimes would never have been committed!
    Join our efforts to Secure America's Borders and End Illegal Immigration by Joining ALIPAC's E-Mail Alerts network (CLICK HERE)
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  7. #7
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    Maybe the Police can start a new recruiting campaign: Illegal Aliens Needed to Fight Crime! Join the newly fomed Illegal Alien Informant Program...Witness Protection guaranteed! Good Salary, all benefits, and Amnesty included. Spanish speakers only! Legal residents need not apply!

  8. #8
    Senior Member cvangel's Avatar
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    If the immigration laws were enforced these crimes wouldn't occur in the first place! LAME excuse!

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanMe
    Maybe the Police can start a new recruiting campaign: Illegal Aliens Needed to Fight Crime! Join the newly fomed Illegal Alien Informant Program...Witness Protection guaranteed! Good Salary, all benefits, and Amnesty included. Spanish speakers only! Legal residents need not apply!
    One of the benefits will be free liver transplants if needed.

  10. #10
    Senior Member lccat's Avatar
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    If the ILLEGALS and Anchor Babies would leave the United States, deported or self deportation, there would be alot less crime for the police to be concerned about receiving help from the ILLEGALS and Anchor Babies!

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