A tree in a landscaped strip on Northeast Front Street bears the scar from where a car crashed through a homeless camp March 27. Four people died. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)
A Salem man police say drove through a downtown homeless encampment, killing four, now faces three additional charges for reckless endangerment.
A Marion County grand jury on April 4 indicted Enrique Rodriguez, Jr., 24, on four counts of first-degree manslaughter, two counts of second-degree assault, driving under the influence, reckless driving and three counts of recklessly endangering another person in Marion County Circuit Court.
The manslaughter charges allege Rodriguez caused the deaths recklessly and “under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life,” according to the indictment.
Witnesses reported seeing Rodriguez on March 27 driving his 2003 Nissan 300ZX with a California license plate at 60-70 miles per hour in a 35 zone, headed north on Northeast Front Street approaching Union Street, a Salem Police Department probable cause affidavit said.
He failed to follow a slight curve in the road, crossed the raised center median, left the road and crashed into the encampment along Front Street, the affidavit said.
The crash killed four people living at the camp and injured two more.
Salem police identified those killed in the crash as Jowand Beck, 24, Luke Kagey, 21, Joe Posada III, 54, and Rochelle Zamacona, 29.
Two more people in the camp were hospitalized. Derrick Hart suffered broken ribs, a possible fractured back and an open fracture to his ankle. Savannah Miller suffered broken ribs and four life-threatening lacerations to her liver. The car “narrowly missed” five others, according to the affidavit.
As of April 7, Miller had been released from the hospital and Hart was in good condition, Salem Health spokeswoman Lisa Wood said.
A blood draw showed Rodriguez’s blood-alcohol level was 0.26, the affidavit said, over three times the legal limit of 0.08.
Jimmy Jones, executive director of the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency, said following the crash that the deaths mark a turning point for how state and local leaders regulate homeless camps.
Jones told Salem Reporter said expects state legislators during the 2023 session will consider requiring cities and counties to set aside property for managed or unmanaged camping.