'Preventable and predictable': WA lawmaker laments trooper's death

Trooper Christopher Gadd, 27, was a married dad whose father and sister are also in law enforcement.
L: Raul Benitez Santana, R: Christopher Gadd

More is being learned about the man suspected of hitting and killing a Washington State Patrol Trooper last weekend on Interstate 5, including the fact that Raul Benitez Santana, 33, is an illegal immigrant from Mexico with a lengthy rap sheet who has since been charged with vehicular homicide in the trooper's death.

Trooper Christopher Gadd, 27, was a married dad whose father and sister are also in law enforcement.

According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Santana is in the country illegally and since his time in Washington, dating back to at least 2013, he has been arrested multiple times for drug possession, failing to appear for driving with a suspended license, and domestic violence assault.

Rep. Dan Griffey, R-Allyn, is a retired career firefighter. He spoke with The Center Square about the tragedy.

“Once again, another family is suffering in absolute shock, and it is so preventable and predictable," he lamented, a reference to Washington’s sanctuary state policies.

“We should not be importing hardened criminals and giving safe haven to those people," Griffey said.

All the power has been given to criminals in recent years, he noted, referencing Initiative 2081 that will loosen restrictions on when police can engage in vehicle pursuits of suspects. The Legislature passed I-2081 last week and it will go into effect 90 days after the end of session on Thursday.

“In my speech on the House floor I wanted to say, 'I told you so,' and I wanted to say it 100 times, but that doesn’t match the decorum of this place," Griffey said. “But I was able to get my point of ‘I told you so’ across from my speech in 2021, when we first passed the pursuit restrictions. At that time I said you will embolden criminal behavior, and Washingtonians will suffer and die because of it.”

The hot-button issue of border security came up.

“Our wide-open border policy is not only affecting us by the people that have criminal intent in their hearts; it is allowing the easy trafficking of fentanyl into this state," Griffey said.

Griffey went on to cite what's inscribed on a plaque on the inner wall of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.

“Give us your tired, your huddled masses yearning to be free," he said. "But it does not say give us your monsters, give us your rapists and give us your murderers; it doesn’t say that.”

He made a distinction between legal immigration and illegal immigration.

“We can have a system that respects proper immigration, and you know the melting pot that is this great country," he said. "We can have that, and we can protect our dear loved ones at the same time. We do not have to have these policies we have now."