Former Republican State Rep. Joe Carr (R-Lascassas) said law enforcement officers would still have Edgar Torres-Rangel in their custody if they had only followed a law he sponsored that was passed by the Tennessee General Assembly several years ago.
That law, named after Ricky Otts, went into effect in July 2012, Carr said.
Otts died several years ago while riding his motorcycle in Tennessee. An illegal immigrant with no driver’s license or insurance killed Otts, Carr said.
“It wasn’t an arrestable offense. He didn’t have a driver’s license or insurance, so they let him go, which is typically what law enforcement does when they don’t have a drivers’ license or insurance because they can’t afford to detain these people,” Carr said.
The law Carr sponsored that was passed by the Tennessee General Assembly and signed by the governor required that drivers, if they cause a serious injury or a fatality, face a magistrate for arraignment.
“There is no mention in the law of illegal immigrants or immigrants. But they are the primary perpetrators of this kind of activity, driving without insurance, driving without a license and it also makes them a significant flight risk,” Carr said.
As The Tennessee Star reported, Torres-Rangel, an alleged illegal immigrant, drove drunk last month in Bedford County and killed a woman named Keri King.
As reported, officials with the Tennessee Highway Patrol worked the crash scene. Torres-Rangel sustained critical injuries. Authorities transported Torres-Rangel to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.
Torres-Rangel later left the hospital on his own. His current whereabouts are unknown. The TBI has him on their 10 Most Wanted list.
Carr told The Star he has consulted with more than one attorney on the matter, and they concur with his opinion.
“There is no latitude and it doesn’t matter what excuse they give,” Carr said.
“The law does not allow for that.”
In an emailed statement, THP spokeswoman Megan Buell said those law enforcement officers acted within the scope of the law Carr sponsored and the Tennessee General Assembly passed in 2012, even after he was taken to Vanderbilt.
“Immediately, THP was in consultation with the District Attorney to determine the scope of charges. The warrants for vehicular homicide, DUI and driving on a suspended license were sent to Vanderbilt on October 22. This was prior to Mr. Torres-Rangel being released from the hospital,” Buell wrote.
“Again, THP operated within the scope of the law and would have taken Torres-Rangel into custody had we been notified of his release.”
Carr, however, said he strongly disagrees with what Buell said.
He said, again, there are no exceptions to the law.
“There was a failure on the part of THP to enforce the law. The family and the community deserve to know why,” Carr said.
“If Mr. Torres was hospitalized then why wasn’t a police officer posted outside his room until such time as he could be brought before the appropriate magistrate according to the law?”
Carr said he hopes King’s family eventually gets justice.
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