DHS faces claim for not deporting violent alien who killed Pa. man
The mother of a former U.S. Marine and Pennsylvania corrections officer killed by an illegal alien has filed a claim against the Department of Homeland Security, saying her son’s killer committed other violentcrimesintheUnitedStatesbut was never deported.
Sandra Miller of Altoona, Pa., whose son, Stephen Heiss, died in August2005,blamesHomelandSecurity and its investigative arm, U.S. ImmigrationandCustomsEnforcement (ICE), for allowing Miguel Padilla to remain in the United States despite prior convictions for assault,recklessendangermentand fighting with police.
claim, which seeks $100 million in punitive damages, is the first step in bringing a formal lawsuit against the government.
Padilla, 27, was sentenced to death in September in the killing of Mr.Heiss,whoworkedforthePennsylvaniaDepartmentofCorrections. Padilla was also convicted in the deaths of Alfred Mignogna, 61, owner of a building where the United Veterans Association maintained a private club, and Fredrick RickabaughSr.,58,adoormanatthe club.
ThethreemendiedduringanAugust2005shootingrampageoutside the club.
ArthurS.Cohen,aHollidaysburg, Pa., lawyer who represents Mrs. Miller and also Mr. Rickabaugh’s family,saidtheadministrativeclaim was “just the start of a case” against Homeland Security and ICE, and that the agencies will claim immunity from any civil lawsuit.
But, he said, “someone needs to be held accountable for this gross miscarriage of justice.”
Mr.CohensaidheishopefulCongress will “take the matter into their own hands to come up with some retroactive benefits” for the victims’ families. The government has until March to respond to the claim.
Theshootingsweredenouncedby Rep. Bill Shuster, Pennsylvania Republican, who said when police had Padilla in custody during the prior arrests they contacted ICE, but the agency “did nothing.”
“Itisterribleenoughwhenamurder occurs, but to have it happen by someone who should not have been here adds to the despair,” Mr. Shuster said in a House floor speech 10 days after Padilla’s sentencing.
Police said Mr. Heiss was enteringtheUnitedVeteransAssociation club in downtown Altoona when three other men were denied entry because they were not members. They said Padilla first argued with Mr. Rickabaugh and then Mr. Mignogna but left, returning with a 45-caliber handgun and began shooting at the club’s owner and the doorman.
Mr.Heisswasfatallywoundedin the chest as he pushed his companion, Barbara Zindel, also a corrections officer, out of the way of the gunfire, police said.
Blair County, Pa., Judge Hiram Carpenterruledearlyinthecasethe jury could not know of Padilla’s cit- izenshipstatus.Pendingappealsare expected to keep the case tied up in the courts for years.
Court records show Padilla was convicted of assault and reckless endangerment in 2003 after a knife attack, and was sentenced to probation. He also was sentenced to probation on three disorderly conduct charges after fighting with police after a traffic stop.
Mr.ShusterhassincemetwithseniorICEofficials—BillReid,acting assistant director for investigations, and Claude Arnold — to discuss the Padilla case, but did not return calls to his office for comment.
Mr.Heisswasposthumouslyrecognized at an annual department awards ceremony, where his family was presented with the DOC’s Medal of Valor.