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Probe of bike death still on

Critics cry foul: No charges, but driver is in jail

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The Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office has asked investigators to interview more eyewitnesses to Monday's accident that killed bike patrol officer Michael Dunman before it will consider filing charges.

Meanwhile, the man police say is responsible for hitting Dunman as the Salt Lake City officer rode his bike on a State Street sidewalk remained in jail Friday morning.

Some local minority leaders are questioning the way police are dealing with the investigation into the case of Yocundo Cruz-Silva, 25.

"I think right now there are more questions than there are answers," said Leticia Medina, director of the Utah Office of Hispanic Affairs. "I am glad that they haven't charged him, because that tells me that law enforcement has to do their job."

The Hispanic Advisory Council was expected to release a statement regarding Cruz-Silva's case Friday afternoon, Medina said.

Cruz-Silva's attorney, Jose L. Trujillo, said he is "looking into" the possibility that Cruz-Silva is being treated differently because he is Hispanic.

"I think right now he is just so distraught over the whole incident," Trujillo said. "That's the main thing that he's focusing on — not whether this is something about race or anything else."

Prosecutors normally have 72 hours to file charges after booking someone into jail, but Cruz-Silva will remain incarcerated on an immigration detainer. After his release, Cruz-Silva will likely be turned over to Immigration and Naturalization Service custody. The INS has placed a detainer on the man and is investigating his immigration status.

If the district attorney's office does decide to file charges against Cruz-Silva, it likely won't be until sometime next week, Utah Highway Patrol spokesman Chris Kramer said.

UHP investigators say the witnesses they've interviewed saw the tire on Cruz-Silva's car blow out after hitting the curb, Kramer said. They also say physical evidence shows the tires did not blow out until they hit the curb, Kramer said. Cruz-Silva says a blowout caused him to veer into the curb and pass over it, striking Dunman.

At least one witness told the Deseret News Cruz-Silva's tire blew out before he hit the curb. Cruz-Silva has apologized for hitting and killing Dunman, 30.

Utah Highway Patrol, which is handling the accident investigation, denies Cruz-Silva was booked into jail because of his race.

"From the position of the highway patrol, it doesn't matter," Kramer said. "Mr. Cruz-Silva had a valid Utah driver's license, and that's the only thing that matters to us."

Kramer said police called the District Attorney's office and, based on preliminary evidence, were given the directive to book Cruz-Silva into jail for investigation of negligent homicide.

But some members of minority groups say the negligent homicide case against an 81-year-old white man was treated differently. Alfred Kutchera was charged with negligent homicide last month after he ran down a mother and her two young children while they waited at a Millcreek bus stop in May. Police say Kutchera fled the scene after his car killed 9-year-old Brent Gatzemeier. To date, Kutchera has not spent one day in jail as he awaits a July 28 hearing on the charges.

Salt Lake County Sheriff's Lt. Jim Potter said Kutchera was not sent to jail because he had strong ties to the community and was not considered a flight risk.

"I think people are blaming the fact that Mr. Cruz-Silva is still in jail on the highway patrol in this case, and that's just not the way it is," Potter said. "He's still in jail because of the immigration hold on him."

Civil rights attorney Michael Martinez disagrees.

"Merely because he's Hispanic doesn't mean he's a flight risk, doesn't mean that he's a liar, doesn't mean that he should be denied bail," Martinez said.

Minority groups have also questioned why an INS agent showed up to the accident scene. Kramer said the police report from the accident indicates the agent questioned Cruz-Silva about one hour after the accident.

Salt Lake Police Sgt. Jim Hill said the police department does have one INS agent who works closely with bicycle cops in detaining illegal immigrants.

"He works with the bike guys just about exclusively," Hill said. "I didn't see it as out of the ordinary."

Funeral services for officer Dunman were held Friday in Tooele. Coverage of the services will be in Saturday's Deseret News.


E-MAIL: djensen@desnews.com