SALEM, Ore. — The man accused of driving into a Salem homeless camp, killing four people and hospitalizing two others, was driving 35 mph above the speed limit with a blood alcohol level more than three times the legal limit, prosecutors said Monday.
Enrique Rodriguez Jr., 24, is being held without bail on multiple manslaughter charges, as well as a charge of driving under the influence of intoxicants.
Marion County Deputy District Attorney Katie Suver said Rodriguez lost control of his car early Sunday and crashed into the camp, flattening the site and pinning two individuals beneath the car. His blood alcohol content was 0.26%, Suver said. The legal limit is .08%.
Rodriguez was driving at 70 mph in a 35-mph zone, which is above the speed limit of 35 mph for that road, prosecutors said.
Since 2014, Rodriguez has been found in violation of various traffic laws, including driving without a valid license and careless driving, Suver added.
Two people died at the scene of the 2 a.m. crash, Suver said. Four others were taken to a hospital, where two later died. Rodriguez, who was the only occupant of the car, also was taken to the hospital, according to the Salem Police Department.
Authorities identified those killed as Jowand Beck, 24; Luke Kagey, 21; Joe Posada III, 54; and Rochelle Zamacona, 29.
‘MY FRIENDS ARE DEAD’:4 killed in Salem, Oregon, after driver crashes into homeless camp; suspect arrested
Family members respond at arraignment
Several family members and friends of the six victims of the crash were present as Rodriguez was arraigned Monday afternoon. A few made statements asking for Rodriguez to be held without bail.
Rodriguez’s mother, Maria Arreze, said her son’s “mistake” is not a reflection of who he is.
Arreze said her son should be held accountable for his actions, but also pointed to the City of Salem allowing people experiencing homelessness to sleep off busy and dangerous roads.
Jimmy Jones, executive director of the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency, which assists in providing services for people experiencing homelessness, told the Salem Statesman Journal, part of the USA TODAY Network, that nearly 50 people without housing have died in the past two years, but this is the first incident involving this many people.
“No one deserves to have to live in unsheltered conditions and they damn sure do not deserve to die in them,” he said. “Tragedies like this will continue until this nation makes a serious commitment to the idea that housing is a human right, and that everyone deserves a warm, safe and dry place where they can live with dignity.”
Those remaining at the camp are likely to be removed this week, the Oregon Department of Transportation said.
Memorial honors neighbors, friends killed in crash
Several people gathered Monday afternoon for a small memorial in honor of the victims. There were yellow and red flowers at the base of a tree the car had hit. Attendees were invited to light a candle or a sparkler in the victims’ honor.
No one made speeches. Instead, they spoke quietly amongst themselves about previous interactions with the victims and about their desire for a safe place to sleep. Some were helping clean up, clearing the ground with a shovel and garbage bags.
Most people knew Luke Kagey, one of the victims, as “Fish” or “Little Luke.” Noland Baliey called him his “little brother.”
The two met at a shelter downtown. Baliey had just started staying at the shelter and was eager to make new friends. He spotted Kagey, and as an offer of friendship, Baliey handed him an entire cigarette pack.
Baliey said he woke up Sunday morning and heard what had happened around the corner. When he arrived, caution tape still blocked people from the scene.
He said he was sick on the sidewalk.
“It was like I knew,” he said.