Suspect charged with vehicular homicide after a Washington state trooper is killed in highway crash

A man accused of crashing into a Washington State Patrol trooper’s vehicle – killing the trooper – on an interstate highway near Seattle over the weekend has been charged in the officer’s death, officials said.

Trooper Christopher M. Gadd, 27, was killed around 3 a.m. Saturday when a driver struck Gadd’s parked patrol vehicle on the side of Interstate 5 in Marysville, about 30 miles north of Seattle, authorities said in a news release and a probable cause affidavit.

The suspect, Raul Benitez Santana, remained at the scene of the crash and was taken into custody, according to the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office. He has been charged with vehicular homicide, the county prosecutor’s office said Tuesday.

Santana – a 32-year-old Mexican citizen who entered the US illegally “at an unknown date and time, without admission or parole by an immigration officer,” a US Immigration and Customs Enforcement official told CNN – “admitted to smoking a bowl of marijuana at approximately 9pm” and “admitted to having 1 drink of alcohol prior to the collision,” according to the arrest affidavit.

His arrest comes amid a reinvigorated national debate over immigration policies in the wake of the killing of Georgia college student Laken Riley, who authorities say was attacked by an undocumented Venezuelan migrant. State and national Republican leaders have touted Riley’s case to support their calls for tighter border security measures – though there is little evidence indicating a connection between immigration and crime levels.

CNN has been unable to identify an attorney for Santana. CNN contacted the Snohomish County Public Defender Association, but the office would not confirm if they represented Santana.

ICE officials previously said Santana was 33 but later updated his age to 32.

Santana was first encountered by ICE personnel in October 2013 in Burien, Washington, after he was arrested on suspicion of “failure to appear” after being accused of driving with a suspended license, according to the ICE official.

Immigration officials in Seattle have placed Santana under an immigration detainer, an ICE spokesperson said. Such a detainer is a request to local law enforcement to keep people suspected of being undocumented migrants in custody so they can be picked up by ICE.

About 3 and 1/2 hours after Saturday’s crash, Santana’s voluntary preliminary breath test resulted in a .047 reading, the arrest affidavit said. Federal law requires all states to follow a BAC limit of no more than 0.08%.

Santana is being held in Snohomish County Jail on a $1 million bond and appeared in court Monday, O’Keefe said. He is being held on a vehicular homicide charge in Gadd’s death and a vehicular assault charge related to an injury to the driver of a third vehicle, Michael C. Held with the Snohomish County Prosecutor’s Office told CNN on Wednesday and court records show.

Gadd appeared to be watching traffic while sitting in his marked patrol vehicle, which was seen parked on the shoulder of the interstate with its lights off when it was struck, the affidavit filed by a county sheriff’s deputy reads, citing a witness, who provided investigators with dash camera video that corroborated what he saw.

Santana’s car was “driving at a high rate of speed, swerved and struck the rear end of Trooper Gadd’s patrol vehicle,” the witness said.

Then, Santana’s car “bounced off Trooper Gadd’s vehicle and went towards the fast lane and stopped” where he was hit by a van carrying six people, the witness recalled, according to the affidavit and dashcam video.

The van’s driver suffered a broken wrist, police wrote in the affidavit.

Washington State Patrol Chief John R. Batiste said he has expressed the agency’s “profound sorrow” to Gadd’s family.

“Chris’ passing is a devastating loss to his family, who knows all too well about the risk of public safety service. … Three members of their family proudly served within this profession,” Batiste said in a news conference Saturday.

Gadd served two-and-a-half years as a trooper and is “survived by his wife, Cammryn, daughter Kaelyn, father WSP Trooper David Gadd, mother Gillian, sister, Jacqueline who currently serves as a trooper with the Texas Department of Public Safety,” the state patrol said in a Facebook post.

“I can tell you that across the entire Washington State Patrol, every head is bowed, every knee is bent, and every heart is broken as we mourn this loss. To honor Chris, even in sorrow, we will go on. We will continue to serve. Because he did, we must,” Batiste said in the post.

Gadd is the 33rd member of the state patrol to die in the line of duty over its 103-year history, the agency said.

CNN’s Alisha Ebrahimji contributed to this report.

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