A man being accused of murdering a convenience store cashier over a pack of cigarettes had been released from federal custody after posting a $10,000 bond in 2013, despite facing proceedings to have him deported.
Despite the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) launching a case two years ago against the suspect, identified as Apolinar Altamirano, he was released on a $10,000 bond after a burglary charge in 2013.
On Thursday, Jan. 22, Altamirano went to a QuikTrip (QT) gas station in Mesa, Arizona, at 4 a.m. for cigarettes and allegedly shot the 21-year-old store clerk, Grant Ronnebeck. "Mr. Altamirano's removal case was still pending with the immigration courts at the time of his most recent arrest," an ICE statement reads.
According to authorities, Altamirano dumped a jar of change on the counter and demanded cigarettes while Ronnebeck told the suspect he needed to collect the money first. Altamirano’s reportedly responded, “You’re not gonna take my money,” and then proceeded to point a gun at Ronnebeck.
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The store’s surveillance video shows the suspect shooting the victim and stepping over his body to get two packs of cigarettes. The cigarettes were found on the suspect after Altamirano was placed into custody following a high-speed car chase with police.
In 2012, Altamirano was convicted on burglary charges, and ICE released him on Jan. 7, 2013 after he posted the $10,000 bond. ICE was launching proceedings against Altamirano, but his removal case was still pending at the time of the QT shooting. The former chairwoman of the Arizona Chapter of American Immigration, Liz Chatham, tried to explain the leniency in some of these immigration cases.
“Generally speaking, yes, there is a backlog in the immigration courts,” said Chatham. With Altamirano’s case, Chatham believed that the likelihood of him being allowed to go on bond was very high, due to his minor offenses in the past.
Critics of ICE and, more specifically, the Obama administration’s policies on immigration, believe that ICE’s standards are too high to detain or convict any immigrant that has committed a crime.
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Jessica Vaughan, the director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies, said that by easily releasing guilty felons like Altamirano, “they are playing Russian roulette with public safety.”
A friend of Ronnebeck’s, Samanatha Hansen, stated: “Grant had a big heart. He was loving and outgoing and full of life. It’s unfair. To think it’s over a couple packs of cigarettes. It’s not right.”
The suspect is currently being held on $1 million bond.
Photo Credit: AZ Central, JournalRecord.com