A Salem man has pleaded guilty to driving drunk through a downtown homeless encampment in March and killing four people.
Enrique Rodriguez Jr., 25, entered the plea on Nov. 2 for 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.
He is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 11 at 1:30 p.m, court records showed.
The Salem Police Department identified those killed in the crash as Jowand Beck, 24, Luke Kagey, 21, Joe Posada III, 54, and Rochelle Zamacona, 29.
Rodriguez caused their deaths recklessly and “under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life,” according to an 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 affidavit said.
He failed to follow a slight curve in the road, crossed the raised center median, drove off the road and crashed into the encampment along Front Street, the affidavit said.
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.
A blood draw showed Rodriguez’s blood-alcohol level was 0.26, the affidavit said, over three times the legal limit of 0.08.
Following the crash, Jimmy Jones, executive director of the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency, told Salem Reporter that the deaths mark a turning point for how state and local leaders regulate homeless camps.
Jones told Salem Reporter said at the time that he expected state legislators during the 2023 session to consider requiring cities and counties to set aside property for managed or unmanaged camping.
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Contact reporter Ardeshir Tabrizian: [email protected] or 503-929-3053.
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Ardeshir Tabrizian has covered criminal justice and housing for Salem Reporter since September 2021. As an Oregon native, his award-winning watchdog journalism has traversed the state. He has done reporting for The Oregonian, Eugene Weekly and Malheur Enterprise.