SAN DIEGO (AP) – Luis Enrique Monroy-Bracamonte had a lot to hide. He was living in the United States illegally, had been convicted in Arizona for selling drugs and twice deported to Mexico.
How he escaped detection was a mystery on Sunday.
His background would have almost certainly flagged him to be expelled from the country again, but he stayed under the radar until his arrest Friday on suspicion of murder, attempted murder and carjacking in the deaths of two sheriff’s deputies during a shooting rampage in Northern California.
More than 2 million deportations have occurred under the watch of President Barack Obama, whose administration has laid out three priorities for people to be deported: Anyone who poses a public safety threat; anyone with a serious immigration history; and recent border crossers. Monroy-Bracamonte would appear to be a prime candidate on the first two counts.
The suspected shooter told investigators that he was 34-year-old Marcelo Marquez of Salt Lake City, but his fingerprints matched biometric records of Monroy-Bracamonte in a federal database, said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Virginia Kice. He was first removed from the country in 1997 after a conviction for possession of drugs for sale in Arizona, then arrested and repatriated to Mexico again in 2001.
Mauro Marquez, his father-in-law, told the Los Angeles Times that he always knew him as Luis Monroy and said his son-in-law worked as a house painter. He said the couple moved to Utah a couple years after marrying about 14 years ago in Arizona.
Marquez told the newspaper that and he and his wife spent a couple days around Christmas with them each year at their home in West Valley, a suburb of Salt Lake City.
Janelle Marquez Monroy, 38, was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder and carjacking after the attack on Friday that left two deputies dead and a sheriff’s deputy and the carjacking victim wounded.
A search of Utah court records for Marcelo Marquez shows a history of about 10 tickets and misdemeanor traffic offenses between 2003 and 2009, which typically don’t trigger a fingerprint check against immigration records. The records list one speeding ticket in 2009 and three small claims filings attempting to collect outstanding debts.
Monroy-Bracamonte appears to have avoided work for government contractors or other employers that might have exposed him to extra scrutiny.
Krista Sorenson of Salt Lake City said he and his brother mowed her lawn and fixed her sprinklers about four years ago, describing them as “just super nice, decent hard-working, trying to figure out how to make a living.” They distributed handbills that said Brothers Landscaping.
Sacramento County sheriff’s Deputy Danny Oliver, 47, was shot in the forehead with an assault rifle at close range as he checked out a suspicious car in a motel parking lot.
Two deputies who approached the pickup while it was parked alongside a road were shot with an AR-15-type assault weapon, police said. Homicide Detective Michael David Davis Jr., 42, died at a hospital.
Peter Nunez, a former U.S. attorney in San Diego and chairman of the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for tighter immigration policies, said the incident exposes shortcomings in border security and interior enforcement. He questioned how the suspect was apparently able to assume another identify.
“It’s symptomatic of the entire system,” he said.
But Dan Kowalski, an Austin, Texas, immigration attorney and editor of Bender’s Immigration Bulletin, said such violent outbursts are difficult to predict.
“Short of locking down the border and deporting everyone and not letting anyone in in the future, even as a tourist to go to Disneyland, that’s the only solution, and that’s not really a solution,” he said.
Associated Press writer Scott Smith in Fresno, California, and Lindsay Whitehurst in Salt Lake City contributed to this report.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.