Family members of a man killed at an RTD light rail stop tells 9Wants to Know they’re “livid” after learning one of the suspects had been flagged for possible deportation months prior to the murder.
In their first statement on the matter, family members of Tim Cruz, 32, say they believe the system “let them down.”
Cruz was a “unique, big-hearted” man, according to a statement provided to 9Wants to Know.
“His life was cut short by a senseless act,” his family added. “To say we are upset is an understatement.”
Cruz was shot and killed at the RTD light rail station at 12th and Sheridan early in the morning of Feb. 7.
Friday, Denver prosecutors charged Ever Valles, 19, with the felony murder of Cruz. Valles, a suspected citizen of Mexico, was awaiting trial on an earlier car theft case at the time of the light rail shooting.
As 9Wants to Know was first to report, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officials had flagged Valles for possible deportation back in October shortly he was booked into the downtown jail on that car theft case.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement placed a detainer on Valles at the time in an effort to get the Denver Sheriff’s Department to notify ICE the moment Valles became eligible to leave the jail.
On Dec. 20, 2016, the sheriff’s department notified ICE via fax at 11:33 p.m. of the fact that Valles was about to walk out of the jail in lieu of a $5,000 bond.
Twenty-six minutes later, Valles left the jail. ICE officials were not able to pick him up.
Less than 2 months later, Denver prosecutors believe Valles and Nathan Valdez, 19, went to the RTD light rail station looking to rob someone.
Court documents show investigators believe Valles searched Cruz’s coat shortly before Valdez shot Cruz.
Valles was also shot. Police believe Valdez, an American citizen, shot Valles near his left hip after Valles asked Valdez not to shoot.
Valles’ wound was not life-threatening. Because prosecutors believe he was taking part in the robbery, a felony, at the time of Cruz’s death, they have charged him with felony murder. The crime carries the same weight and punishment under Colorado law as first-degree murder.
Both Valles and Valdez are due in court Tuesday afternoon.
A family member who did not want to be publicly identified told 9Wants to Know the family is devastated.
“Our family is in great pain over the loss of [Tim]. His life was cut short by a senseless act that may have or could have been prevented,” read the statement.
“Tim will never be forgotten. He is the world to us, and we are going to miss him,” it continued.
The story promises to bring more attention to the relationship between ICE and the Denver Sheriff’s Department.
ICE, in a statement, said its October detainer request on Valles “wasn’t honored” by the sheriff’s department.
ICE said it considered Valles “a known gang member” and an “immigration enforcement priority” at the time of his release.
A spokesperson for the Denver Sheriff’s Department told 9Wants to Know this on Friday shortly after news of the story broke:
“The Denver Sheriff Department balances the rights of persons in our custody with requests from other jurisdictions. But we are part of the criminal justice system and do not hold people on civil matters. In the case of Ever Valles, ICE was notified by fax that Mr. Valles was being released prior to his release. Denver has never and will never advocate for felons to remain on our streets - immigrants or not. However, we work to protect residents who are playing by the rules, working hard every day, providing for their families.”