Exclusive: Trooper reprimanded in traffic stop that resulted in man's deportation
OLYMPIA, Wash. -- A Washington State Patrol trooper has been reprimanded for her actions in a February traffic stop that ultimately resulted in the deportation of a undocumented immigrant, documents reviewed by KOMO News show.
In February, Armando Chavez Corona was rear-ended along Interstate 5 in Tacoma. When his driver's license was checked, the State Patrol found a notification request by Immigration & Customers Enforcement for a felony drug conviction in the early 1990s.
ICE agents took him away following the traffic incident, and ICE confirms that he was deported to Mexico on March 2. He left behind a family of five in Tacoma.
The controversy over his being detained by ICE focused on actions by the State Patrol. It also came at a time when immigrant advocates feared an increase in deportations with the new administration of President Donald Trump in place.
The incident prompted a State Patrol review that the agency's chief called "a very thorough and fair inquiry" on Tuesday.
State Patrol Chief John Batiste said Tuesday that there is no evidence to indicate that the trooper stalled the investigation of the crash so that ICE agents could arrive.
A tape of a telephone conversation with ICE has recorded the trooper suggesting she could delay, but Batiste says there is no proof she did delay. He added that the crash scene did take a long time to clear.
In the telephone call, the trooper says, "...I can stall actually until he gets here. Probably 20 minutes to a half an hour."
An ICE agent replies that "we really want him."
Batiste backed the trooper's contacting ICE.
"We determined there was absolutely nothing wrong with the trooper contacting ICE for the benefit of determining whether the person posed a threat to the trooper or to the community," Batiste said. "That was the proper thing to have done."
Batiste emphasized that State Patrol troopers do not act as immigration agents.
"We never have. It's not our intent to do so. That's a federal responsibility," he said. "So the trooper did not act as an immigration agent nor are any troopers allowed to do so."
The trooper is being reprimanded for two actions that were deemed "unbecoming."
First, she briefly used some language in her patrol car to a citizen who was riding along that mimicked the accent of Armando Chavez Corona.
According to a dash camera recording, the trooper told the citizen: "I'm going to ask his mother's and father's names. 'I don't know, know my father's name. No habla ingles.' Ha, ha. "
Second, she turned off her dash camera before issuing a citation for no proof of insurance.
The reprimand will go in her file. Batiste said he believes the trooper will have a long and successful career with the State Patrol.
"She admits that she made a mistake, and she's ready to move forward," Batiste said.
He said it was not the intent of the trooper to be racist when she mimicked the man.
KOMO News is not naming the trooper because the violations did not constitute termination, and there is no criminal investigation.