Communities struggle to cope after killings that authorities have linked to illegal immigrants

Emotions ran high at a San Jose, Calif. community meeting this week where residents questioned local officials about the brutal stabbing death of Bambi Larson, who was allegedly killed by an undocumented immigrant wanted by federal immigration officials for deportation.

Authorities said Carlos Eduardo Arevalo Carranza – a native of El Salvador with a long criminal history and admitted gang ties — stalked Larson, 59, before the February attack in her home.

“He had a crime record,” San Jose resident Connie Schneider told the Bay Area’s FOX 2. “He shouldn’t have been able to do this to anybody.”

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Several communities have been shocked in recent weeks by slayings that authorities have attributed to suspects described as illegal immigrants, drawing attention to President Trump’s call for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and the nationwide debate over sanctuary policies adopted by some states and cities that critics say have allowed some violent criminals living in the U.S. illegally to evade deportation.

Carranza, 24, had been deported back to El Salvador in 2013 but re-entered the United States illegally. The case has put a spotlight on California’s sanctuary laws, which allowed him to go free even though federal immigration officials had requested local authorities detain him in an effort to begin deportation proceedings. Those requests went unanswered.

San Jose and Santa Clara County officials have come under scrutiny for not handing Carranza over to federal officials.

“I think everybody believes something needs to be done,” Larson’s friend, George Bisceglia, told FOX 2. “There’s obviously a disconnect somewhere.”

“I think everybody believes something needs to be done. There’s obviously a disconnect somewhere.”

— George Bisceglia, friend of a California murder victim

Sheriff’s deputy mourned

North of California on Wednesday, residents and law enforcement officials were mourning Kittitas County, Wash., sheriff’s deputy Ryan Thompson, who died Tuesday after exchanging gunfire with a suspect who allegedly evaded a traffic stop.

Sheriff's Deputy Ryan Thompson, 42, was shot and killed and a police officer was wounded after they exchanged gunfire with a road rage driving suspect Tuesday, authorities said Wednesday. (Kittitas County Sheriff's Office via AP)

Sheriff’s Deputy Ryan Thompson, 42, was shot and killed and a police officer was wounded after they exchanged gunfire with a road rage driving suspect Tuesday, authorities said Wednesday. (Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

“You have to come and support our community,” Kittitas County resident Tami Merkle told Seattle’s KING 5 News. “And give our love to their family and the fallen officer.”

The suspect, 29-year-old Juan Manuel Flores Del Toro, entered the U.S. in 2014 on a temporary agricultural work visa. Investigators say he fatally shot Thompson, 42, and wounded Kittitas police Officer Benito Chavez, who is expected to survive.

Flores Del Toro was fatally shot by officers during the gunfire exchange.

“For this to happen here? It’s insane. You don’t get that here,” said Ethan Keaton, 17, a junior at Ellensburg High School, who was near a growing memorial at Kittitas Elementary School, according to the Seattle Times.

“For this to happen here? It’s insane. You don’t get that here.”

— Ethan Keaton, 17, student in area where a sheriff’s deputy was killed this week

First United Methodist Rev. Jen Stuart changed the signage outside her church Wednesday to read, “Together we mourn Deputy Thompson, pray for Officer Chavez.”

“This is the kind of thing that can tear a community apart – it can also bring us together if we choose to allow it to do that,” Stuart said.

“This is the kind of thing that can tear a community apart – it can also bring us together if we choose to allow it to do that.”

— The Rev. Jen Stuart

Four slain in Nevada 

In Reno, Nev., the killings of four people have become part of the national immigration debate. The bodies of Connie Koontz, 56; Sophia Renken, 74; Gerald “Jerry” David, 81; and David’s wife, 80-year-old Sharon, were found between Jan. 10 and Jan. 16 in Gardnerville and South Reno.

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Wilber Ernesto Martinez-Guzman, 19 — whom investigators say entered the U.S. illegally from El Salvador – has been charged with multiple felony counts related his alleged 10-day rampage because he needed money to buy drugs. He pleaded not guilty Tuesday to four murder counts.

President Trump cited the case as evidence for his promised U.S.-Mexico border wall and the Davids’ daughters attended Trump’s State of the Union address last month.

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Since the killings, the family members have remembered the Davids as a generous couple who stepped up when anyone needed anything.

“They took me under their wing and loved me unconditionally,” the couple’s niece, Michelle Drummond, told the Reno Gazette-Journal in February. “I’m a better person for knowing them.”

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