WASHINGTON - Family members of an FBI agent and a Maryland deputy fire marshal said they are outraged and devastated after a driver who struck and killed their loved ones will only receive a $280 fine for the deadly crash.
Roberto Garza Palacios was charged with negligent driving when he crashed into Carlos Wolff and Sander Cohen on Dec. 8.
Investigators said Wolff crashed his car into a concrete median on the southbound side of Interstate 270. Cohen happened to be passing by and pulled over to the shoulder to help, putting on his hazards to warn other drivers.
That is when police said Garza Palacios told investigators he did not have enough time to swerve out of the way and crashed into the two men standing outside their cars. The collision caused both men to be thrown over the median.
The victims’ families said they still have concerns about the investigation into the crash and they believe their deaths could have been prevented.
“Not only did this happen to them, but the law didn't even take care of the justice portion of it,” said Marla Wolff, the wife of the late FBI agent. “I can’t even imagine what their reactions would be if they only knew that this would be the punishment – a $280 fine for their deaths.”
Bonded for life over the deaths of their husband and son, Marla Wolff and Arlene Cohen are still left stunned at the fact that the man who steered into their loved ones on the side of the highway will only walk away with that fine and three points on his license.
“It’s really helpful to be together because we understand like no other parent or wife could possibly understand how this has impacted our lives,” said Arlene Cohen, the mother of the late 33-year-old deputy chief with the Office of the State Fire Marshal.
Maryland State Police said alcohol, drugs and speed were not a factor in the crash. But Marla and Arlene are questioning those findings.
“[He] didn't put on his brakes,” said Arlene. “He actually hit Carlos and Sander without slowing down or stepping on the brake. So we are a little confused. How come he wasn’t tested? Was he tested and maybe we haven't seen the results?
Meanwhile, FOX 5 has learned that Garza Palacios has had previous traffic and criminal convictions. Court records show he pleaded guilty to driving while impaired in 2015. He also served four months in jail around the same time for smashing several cars and setting a fire.
According to U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), it lodged a detainer on Garza Palacios following that arrest three years ago, but he was released from jail without being notified.
“This could have been prevented,” said Marla. “It didn't have to happen. He shouldn't have been on the road that night. At least his license should have been revoked in 2015. If they decided not to do anything, not to deport him, but then the fact they continued to allow him to drive on the road, who is going to be next?”
Garza Palacios still faces possible deportation. Back in May, ICE officers took him into custody and charged him with overstaying his work visa that expired in 2009.
However, his deportation hearing is not scheduled until next March.