Authorities confirm felony DUI suspect is illegal alien
NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement says the alleged drunk driver who police say drove through an accident scene in North Charleston last weekend, injuring several people, is an illegal alien from Mexico.
ICE Eastern Seaboard Communications Director Vincent Picard said Tuesday that the agency had placed a "detainer" on 26-year-old Felix Garcia-Romero, which ensures they will be notified by local law enforcement prior to his release from custody.
Picard said the detainer will not impede the criminal prosecution Garcia-Romero is currently undergoing.
Michael Harrison, an attorney specializing in immigration law, says even if Garcia-Romero is able to post bond on the $300,000 in charges he faces, he will still be held in jail by ICE.
Harrison said, "Immigration and Customs Enforcement has a relationship with Charleston County Detention Center to hold illegal immigrants until such time as they can be transferred to another federal holding facility."
If convicted, Garcia-Romero would serve his sentence in South Carolina, and then the federal government will send him to another facility. Harrison says detainees in South Carolina are usually transported to either the North Georgia Detention Center in Gainesville, Georgia or to the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia.
"Deportation can take anywhere from 3 months to 2 years generally," said Harrison.
Dash camera video released by the North Charleston Police Department Monday shows emergency personnel on scene at 3940 Ashley Phosphate Road attending to a wreck that happened earlier. A car, which authorities say was driven by Felix Garcia-Romero, can be seen crashing into a car and several people including two emergency responders.
Police say one of responders injured in the accident remains in the hospital.
Engineer Darin Kingery, a 12-year veteran with the department suffered multiple fractures following the early Saturday morning crash. Kingery is in the Intensive Care Unit at the Medical University of South Carolina.
According to NCFD officials, a second firefighter, Joshua Sader, who's been with the department for six months, was treated and released the night of the crash.
Garcia-Romero is facing $300,000 in citations after crashing through an accident scene on 3940 Ashley Phosphate Road. North Charleston police say the man is charged with three felony counts of driving under the influence after sending a firefighter, paramedic, and four others to the hospital.
He remains behind bars at the Charleston County Detention Center..
According to a release, North Charleston Fire Department and Charleston County EMS responded to the collision at 1:44 a.m. where a disabled car was in the street following a collision with another car.
A police report states a black Honda traveling northbound, crossed over into southbound traffic in order to avoid hitting the fire truck, which NCFD officials say was placed on the roadway in a defensive position, that was blocking traffic.
According to authorities, the Honda hit the Chevy before striking the people on scene.
The officer reported that when he approached the driver, later identified as Garcia-Romero, he observed the man not wearing a seatbelt, had an odor of alcohol coming from him and had bloodshot eyes.
Police say when Garcia-Romero was escorted to a patrol car, he was "very unstable on his feet."
Officers reported that Garcia-Romero, who told officers that he had two drinks, needed assistance in order to avoid falling. Garcia was then arrested for driving under the influence.
Investigators say they found an expired insurance card inside Garcia's car. According to police, Garcia did not have a valid driver's license.
All of the injured parties, which comprised of three 18-year-old girls, a female juvenile and the two responders, were transported to a local hospital by EMS. According to a report by the NCPD, three of the victims suffered broken legs and "many other injuries."
Garcia-Romero was taken to MUSC where he was checked out and released to police. A North Charleston Fire Department release states a preliminary investigation into the crash indicates that the responders on scene were wearing ANSI approved reflective vests, per department guidelines.
Marlene Hayward's 18-year-old daughter was driving early Saturday morning when she got into the accident, which emergency crews were first responding to. But the teen wasn't injured until the second crash..
Hayward's daughter is suffering from a broken leg in 3 places. Hayward says her daughter isn't talking much about the accident yet, but remembers the moment she realized her leg was broken.
"She felt a lot of pain, she went to move her leg and she said it just wobbled. She put it back and then said the paramedics came over to her and said to breathe in deeply and breathe out," said Hayward.
Just graduating from Wando High School, Hayward says instead of focusing on college in the fall, her daughter now has physical therapy all summer.
"She had to have a rode put in and a plate behind her ankle and a bolt to hold those things together. Her hopes were to save enough money during the summer and purchase a car so she could get back and forth to school," said Hayward.
There were two other girls with her daughter. One of them also ended up with a broken leg. Hayward says they were only a couple of miles away from home.
"They were going to spend the night at the house that night. They got together and they went out for a little while and they were headed home when the accident occurred. You got innocent people that are suffering because of his choices he made," said Hayward.
Hayward is rooting for her daughter as she recovers in the tough months ahead.
"I know the angels were watching her, were all over her and I know with the help of my Lord and Savor she will make a 100 percent recovery," said Hayward.
Garcia-Romero was also charged with not having a license or insurance and not wearing a seat belt.
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