KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Federal immigration authorities twice missed chances to detain a Mexican national in the U.S. illegally before he allegedly killed four men in Kansas and one in Missouri, according to a lawsuit filed by relatives of two of his victims.
The lawsuit filed in Kansas City, Kansas, says Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials didn't follow proper procedures, resulting in Pablo Serrano-Vitorino being released from jail twice before March 7, 2016, when authorities say he shot four men in Kansas City, Kansas. He is accused of fatally shooting another man in Montgomery County, Missouri, later the same day, before his arrest.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the widow and two children of Clint Harter, one of the four Kansas men killed, and the widow of Randy Nordman, his victim in Missouri, The Kansas City Star reported.
Serrano-Vitorino was deported after he was convicted of a felony in 2003. The lawsuit contends U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials had chances to detain Serrano-Vitorino for illegally re-entering the country when he was arrested in 2014 and 2015.
Wyandotte County officials notified ICE in 2014 that Serrano-Vitorino was in jail for domestic battery, but he was released when the agency didn't send an agent to interview him, according to the lawsuit. He was pulled over by Overland Park police for traffic violations in 2015. The lawsuit says ICE prepared paperwork to have him detained but it was sent to the Johnson County Sheriff's Office, which did not have Serrano-Vitorino in custody. Overland Park officials, unaware of the paperwork, released him.
"Clint and Randy's deaths are the direct and proximate result of the failure of ICE officials, officers and/or agents to carry out their required duties, which failure provided the means for a convicted felon who was illegally in the country, but in custody, to be released and kill Clint and Randy and three other victims," according to the lawsuit.
ICE spokesman Carl Rusnok said Monday that the agency doesn't comment on pending litigation.
The families are seeking unspecified damages.
Serrano-Vitorino is jailed in St. Louis awaiting trial on a first-degree murder charge in Nordman's death. He also is charged with first-degree murder in Wyandotte County in the deaths of Harter, his brother Austin Harter, Mike Capps and Jeremy Waters.
Serrano-Vitorino has pleaded not guilty. Missouri prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.