A traffic accident in Ogden, Utah in which two Latinos fleeing from the police ran a red light and fatally T-boned two White guys is unleashing raw emotions in the community. Many have scribbled condolence messages on a traffic light pole at the crash site.
But one message was distinctly unsympathetic. In a reference to the ethnicity of the perpetrators, one person wrote "Kill all Mexicans". And, predictably, the sensationalist KTVX Channel 4 is focusing exclusively on that aspect. They even nagged Ogden Mayor Matthew "Boss" Godfrey into visiting the site and covering up the offending grafitti with tape. KTVX news video embedded below:
Quite frankly, all the graffitti should be removed from the traffic light pole. There is no reason to be turning a light pole into a public noticeboard just for people to express their grief. That's why we have funeral parlors and cemeteries.
On Wednesday April 22nd, 2009, 19-year-old Blake Strebel of South Jordan and 18-year-old Derek Jasper of South Ogden were heading home from a church basketball game in a Mitsubishi Lancer at the intersection of 28th Street and Washington Blvd when a Cadillac driven by Mark Mora, with his cousin Andrew Gomez as a passenger, ran the red light and T-boned the Lancer. The two had been spotted by neighbors trying to burglarize a home on Ogden's east bench, and police tracked them down and gave chase, following established pursuit procedures.
The force of the impact wrapped the Lancer around the traffic pole, while the Cadillac's front end was smashed in. Mora was knocked unconscious in the crash, but Gomez attempted to run from officers before being captured. A probable-cause statement filed with the criminal charges said that after being apprehended, Gomez fought with the officers and clawed at one of them. He was placed into handcuffs after a struggle. Original KSL news video triggering 656 comment embedded below:
On Friday April 24th, UHP disclosed that investigators were planning to meet with prosecutors in the Weber County Attorney's Office soon to discuss charges against the driver, Mark Mora, who remains confined in the Weber Valley Detention Center. They're looking at pursuing two counts of auto homicide, felony DUI, felony fleeing, driver's license, insurance, and a stop-light violation. As for the 21-year-old Gomez, he was charged in 2nd District Court on Friday with assault against a police officer, a class A misdemeanor, and interfering with an arrest, a class B misdemeanor. Shortly after he was booked into the Weber County Jail on Thursday, jail records indicated he posted $4,351 bail for the misdemeanor offenses and was released. Ogden police say Gomez is a gang member with a lengthy criminal history. Court records show Gomez has numerous traffic and animal violations and only one past criminal charge of unlawful possession of alcohol by a minor.
But Gomez is already trying to whitewash his behavior and his past record. He says the tattoos on his neck are of the names of his 8-month-old daughter and his mother. "I like tattoos, but there are no gang affiliation tattoos on me," he said. He also says he's being wrongfully accused of burglary and has an alibi: he was in court dealing with a violation for having a dog running loose.
And the parents of both are also trying to whitewash the behavior of their sons. Gomez's mother says he's not a bad guy. And Stacey Mora said about Mark, "He's a good kid. He doesn't get into trouble,". Stacey Mora attempted to further buttress her case by showing documents she says prove her son is not a criminal. She says there are two debt collection cases and a seat belt violation against him. However, the Salt Lake Tribune reveals that Mora's juvenile court records show he's been charged with two felonies and nine misdemeanors since 2005, including exhibiting a dangerous weapon, possession of a dangerous weapon at school, assault causing a bodily injury and riot resulting in injury. KSL news video showing Ms. Mora whitewashing her son embedded below:
Both the Gomezes and the Moras expressed sympathy for the two victims, but they also attempted to shift the blame onto police for initiating the chase. In response, police said that Mora made the decision to run from them rather than cooperate, and so he bears the responsibility.
Derek Jasper and Blake Strebel had bright futures. They were students and roommates at Weber State University. The 18-year-old Jasper was expecting an LDS mission call — the letter was supposed to arrive in the mail next week. The 19-year-old Stebel also looked forward to a mission, but first was working towards his associate degree so he could pursue his lifelong dream of a career in law enforcement when he returned from his future mission.