ICE, Denver officials trade blame for release of Guatemalan man suspected of Aurora trail assault

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AURORA | The local office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Thursday scolded Denver jailers for ignoring a request to detain a Guatemalan man who investigators now believe assaulted a former Aurora city councilwoman with a plank of wood on the High Line Canal Trail less than 12 hours after he was released from custody.

Pictured: Julio Gonzalez. Photo provided by the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office via U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

ICE officials said authorities at the Denver Justice Center “refused to honor (an) immigration detainer” filed against Julio Gonzalez, 23, when they released him from the Denver facility the evening of July 10, according to a news release. Denver police had arrested Gonzalez — who has used several aliases, including Palacios and Rodas — on assault and burglary charges the day before.

But a spokesperson for the Denver Sheriff’s Department, which oversees the jail, disputed that claim, saying that jailers faxed ICE officials a notification regarding Gonzalez’s impending release at 4:03 p.m. July 10. ICE officials have claimed that such notifications often don’t give them enough time to organize teams to travel across the metroplex and pick up wanted aliens.

Gonzalez was officially released at 7:31 p.m. July 10 after posting a $5,000 bond, according to a spokesperson for the Denver Sheriff’s Department.

Aurora police now believe that Gonzalez used a wood board to assault a woman jogging along the High Line Canal trail in Aurora at 6 a.m. the following morning. The woman, identified as former Aurora City Councilwoman Debi Hunter Holen, sustained serious injuries, and is currently attempting to raise $50,000 to cover her medical costs.

Aurora police arrested Gonzalez on an outstanding warrant for a felony fugitive charge later that day, but before he was a formal suspect in the board attack. He’s since been charged with felony assault and is in custody at the Arapahoe County Jail in lieu of posting a $55,000 bond, according to county records.

Gonzalez legally entered the country through Orlando, Florida, but overstayed his visitation status and has been illegally living in the U.S. for more than three years, according to ICE officials. He’s since been convicted of numerous crimes across the metro area, including theft, assault and trespassing.

ICE authorities have said that their efforts to detain and deport aliens like Gonzalez have been hobbled by a 2019 state law that prohibits jailers from physically detaining people solely based on their immigration status without a judge’s order.

“Gonzalez-Palacios could have been safely transferred to ICE custody and he may have been removed from the country, but due to Colorado’s misguided sanctuary law, law enforcement agencies are no longer able to work with us to keep repeat offenders off the streets,” local ICE director John Fabbricatore said in a statement.

ICE staffers similarly chided Arapahoe County officials in November 2019 for releasing a Cuban man who was arrested on attempted murder charges about a month after he was released on drug and trespassing charges. ICE had also filed a detainer request on that man, but he was never taken into ICE custody. Jailers in Arapahoe County said they emailed ICE regarding the man’s impending release about two and half hours before he was cleared to leave the local detention center in Centennial.

ICE filed a new detainer request for Gonzalez with Arapahoe County, where he remains incarcerated as of Friday, on July 14.