PARK CITY — The attorney for a man whose car struck and killed a Salt Lake City bicycle patrolman is protesting what he calls police "discrimination" in handling the case and is calling for the man's release from jail.
"We feel there were a number of irregularities in the way the Utah Highway Patrol has investigated the case," Jose Luis Trujillo said Wednesday night in a press conference outside the Summit County jail where his client, Yocundo Cruz-Silva, 25, Salt Lake City, is being held on a federal detainer, in lieu of $15,000 bond, as an illegal alien.
"We feel investigators have discounted witnesses who corroborated Mr. Silva's testimony," Trujillo said of the July 17 incident in which the car Cruz-Silva was driving jumped a curb near 1450 S. State and struck officer Michael J. Dunman, 30.
"The investigators have leaked information to the media in order to spread their version of the incident. By bringing these statements to the public, it amounts to tampering with witnesses, intimidating them from coming forward fully and also possibly affecting a jury pool should the matter come to trial," Trujillo said.
He added he would ask Mayor Rocky Anderson's office to look in to the way police investigated the case.
Highway patrol spokesman Chris Kramer strongly disputed Trujillo's assertions.
"As far as the claims of witness tampering go, that's absolutely ludicrous," Kramer said Thursday morning. "Basically, he (Jose Trujillo) is just grandstanding for media attention. This accusation has no basis in fact. It's completely without merit."
Cruz-Silva told police that after a tire blew, he lost control, hit a utility pole and his car then struck the officer. That version was supported by at least one witness at the scene in comments to the Deseret News.
UHP investigators since have said physical evidence and other witnesses indicate the tire blew when Cruz-Silva's car struck a curb, then jumped onto the sidewalk and struck Dunman.
"I can't say what the witnesses said, but I can tell you this, beyond a shadow of a doubt we talked to everybody on the scene. We talked to everybody who claimed they saw the accident," Kramer said. "Anybody who could have possibly, remotely seen anything, we've talked to."
UHP investigators have contacted witnesses who were reported in the paper as saying they saw Cruz-Silva's tire blow out before his car hit the curb but would not report what they said.
"I can say for sure that we have not discounted any witnesses. We have gathered every piece of evidence," Kramer said.
Trujillo said Friday night he doubted charges would be filed against Cruz-Silva. The original 72-hour filing period passed with the Salt Lake District Attorney's office telling investigators they needed more evidence.
However, Kramer said, investigators were prepared to file charges perhaps Thursday or Friday.
"We are pretty much done with our investigation. It's up to the district attorney," Kramer said.
As to the federal detainer, Trujillo said he was requesting a Friday hearing with Immigration and Naturalization Service officials in Denver, seeking to drastically reduce Cruz-Silva's bail or release him on his own recognizance. INS officials have indicated they plan to go forward with removal proceedings, returning Cruz-Silva to Mexico.
Claudia Bernal-Cruz, wife of Yocundo Cruz-Silva, stood outside the jail Wednesday, proclaiming her husband's innocence and lamenting the hardships of his incarceration.
"He was providing everything for our family. He was the breadwinner. With no money coming in, I don't know what we're going to do," Bernal-Cruz said through interpreter Carlos Vorher.
Bernal-Cruz said she and her son, Carlos, 6, and daughter, Samantha, 3, are "staying with a friend."
"I believe what the police are doing is incorrect because what happened was a terrible accident. We feel very badly about what happened for our family, and we feel very badly for the family of the officer," Bernal-Cruz said.
Trujillo also called into question the manner in which Cruz-Silva was detained as an illegal alien. Trujillo said normal INS procedure is not to pursue undocumented individuals unless criminal charges have been filed.
But, Trujillo said, "within 20 minutes of the accident," an INS officer connected to the Salt Lake Police Department was on the scene evaluating Cruz-Silva's status as an illegal, though he had a valid Utah driver license and automobile insurance.