Editor’s Note: In light of recent news reports that Washington, D.C., law enforcement authorities will be seeking charges against jailed Salvadoran illegal immigrant Ingmar Guandique for the murder of Chandra Levy, HUMAN EVENTS is reprinting an article from 2002 by Terence P. Jeffrey that asked how Guandiuque was able to enter the United States.
The tragedy of Chandra Levy first brought to light a congressman’s illicit affair. Now it may spotlight one of the problems with illicit immigration.
CNN reported on May 23, the day after Levy’s body was found in Rock Creek Park, that investigators in the case had talked last summer to a Salvadoran man known as Ingmar Guandique. “We plan to perhaps visit again and talk to him once more,” D.C. Police Chief Charles Ramsey told the network.
Channing Phillips, chief of staff to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, confirmed to HUMAN EVENTS that the government had questioned Guandique in its investigation of the Levy case. Guandique is now in prison, serving a ten-year sentence handed down in February by the Superior Court for the District of Columbia, where he pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree burglary and two counts of assaulting women in Rock Creek Park in separate incidents last May and July.
Levy’s body was found in the park near where Guandique attacked his victims.
Guandique is an illegal alien who had been offered a form of amnesty by the U.S. government.
In a statement released in response to questions from HUMAN EVENTS, the Eastern Region Office of the Immigration and Naturalization Service said: “Our records indicate that Mr. Guandique entered the United States illegally but was eligible for an immigration benefit because of the designation of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for nationals of El Salvador. He filed for that benefit and received work authorization while that application was pending. The application has subsequently been denied because Guandique failed to submit fingerprints.”
President Bush decided to grant TPS status to illegal aliens from El Salvador on March 2 of last year after meeting with Salvadoran President Francisco Flores. According to a 1990 immigration law, the attorney general can certify illegal aliens as eligible for this status whenever he determines “they are temporarily unable to return to their homelands” because of a war or natural disaster. In January and February 2001 there were earthquakes in El Salvador that killed hundreds of people. Bush determined that TPS status should be extended to Salvadoran illegal immigrants as a means of providing additional financial aid to the stricken country. “This will allow them to continue to work here and to remit some of their wages back home to support El Salvador’s recovery efforts,” Bush said at the time.
A few days after the President’s decision, Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft issued regulations indicating that any Salvadoran who had been in the United States before February 13, 2001 could apply by September 9, 2002 to stay in the U.S. under TPS. While their TPS application were pending, they could apply for permission to legally work in the United States. Ashcroft estimated there were 150,000 potential applicants for the program.
Guandique was one of them — and, although the INS will not say when he applied, it must have been within weeks of beginning his crime spree.
To be sure, no evidence has tied Guandique to Chandra Levy. As Chief Ramsey told CNN, “We can’t make the leap from that [Guandique’s crimes in Rock Creek Park] to anything to do with Chandra Levy.” But the circumstances of Guandique’s crimes and the way he was handled by U.S. law enforcement, raises questions about how criminal and immigration laws are enforced in our nation’s capital.
Washington is a more dangerous city because of criminal aliens. Guandique’s brief, violent residency in the city demonstrates the point.
His first recorded encounter with the Washington Metropolitan Police Department was on May 7, 2001 (six days after Chandra Levy disappeared). At 1:15 PM that day, a woman returned with her daughter to her apartment on Somerset Place, NW. This is on the eastern edge of Rock Creek Park.
“She heard a noise coming from her bedroom,” says a police report filed that day. She investigated and found a man “hiding in the corner.” She screamed, the man fled. She called the police and described for them a suspect who was “a hispanic male wearing a striped yellow shirt, black pants.”
The police discovered that the burglar had entered the victim’s home by breaking the deadbolt on the door and that a gold ring was missing from the bedroom. A few minutes later they found a man walking down the street who fit the description of the burglar. They discovered a gold ring in his pocket. The woman “positively identified” him as the man she had seen in her apartment.
The suspect could not speak English, so a Spanish-speaking officer interpreted for him. His name was Ingmar Guandique, he said, and he was born in El Salvador on August 21, 1981. He had no Social Security number and “refused” to tell police the name of any “family, relatives, friends or associates.” He did not call anybody from jail.
The next day, the District’s Pretrial Services Agency (PSA) interviewed Guandique. This is the only agency that ordinarily investigates a suspect’s background on behalf of the District of Columbia’s government before a judge determines whether to release the suspect on bail.
Guandique told the PSA interviewer he had lived in Washington for one and a half years. He said he lived on the same block of Somerset Place as his alleged victim. He said he had not used drugs in the past month. He said he had been employed for three months as carpenter by a company whose name does not appear in local telephone or business directories. Before that, he said, he had worked in “rock construction” for an unnamed contractor, and as a “rock cutter” for another unnamed employer. He was not married, he said, but had one child who did not live with him.
PSA could not determine if any of this was true. The agent noted: “The provided references were unavailable to verify the defendant’s information.”
That same day a judge released Guandique on his “personal promise” to return for trial. On the release form, the judge checked off boxes indicating he was to verify his address with the PSA, and “[r]efrain from committing any criminal offense.”
Six days later Guandique was stalking Rock Creek Park. His victim was a 30-year-old professional woman.
“I went to Rock Creek Park, in the District, for a run at about 6:30 in the evening,” she later wrote the judge in the case. “I was wearing a bright yellow Walkman radio with earphones and started jogging from the parking lot at Pierce Mill. About 200 yards into my run, at the next parking lot, I noticed a young Hispanic guy sitting on the curb watching as I ran by. I made a mental note, but kept running.”
Guandique ran after her. He kept after her for five or six minutes.
“As I slowed, this runner jumped me from behind,” she said. “We wrestled and it became clear he was physically attacking me. I twisted around, in the ensuing moment, and realized my attacker was the young male I had noticed watching me in the parking lot. Also when I had twisted around I saw that he had a small knife in his hand.”
She fought for her life, grabbing Guandique by his lower jaw and pulling as hard as she could. He bit her finger then ran away. She ran in the other direction, and came across two other runners who brought her to a police station.
Five weeks later, Guandique, still free on his “personal promise,” showed up to sign a plea agreement in the burglary case. The government charged him with second-degree burglary. He admitted it. The judge scheduled a sentencing hearing for August 9. He walked back onto the streets.
Eleven days later he was in Rock Creek Park again. This time his victim was a 26-year-old attorney. She, too, was wearing a Walkman.
“On Sunday, July 1, 2001,” this victim later wrote the judge, “I went for a run in Rock Creek Park with my fiancé and I will never forget what happened that day. Being attacked from behind by a man with a knife is the most terrifying thing that has ever happened to me. When my attacker dragged me into the ravine, holding a knife against my throat and covering my mouth, I thought and still think today that he was going to rape me or try to kill me. I feared for my life. What struck me most was that within ten seconds, I was off the jogging path in the woods, struggling to scream and out of sight of any passersby.”
“Until that day,” she said, “I never realized how quickly someone with the advantage and a weapon can put a person in a position of total isolation and helplessness.”
When she continued to scream, Guandique fled. She immediately reported the incident to the U.S. Park Police. They captured him on a street near the edge of the park.
The next day, the District’s PSA interviewed Guandique for the second time in two months. Now he said had been living for 15 days at an “unknown” address in Langley Park, Md. — meaning he had moved since he was released on his “personal promise” to return to court and to certify his address with PSA. Indeed, he had moved to this “unknown” address only days before pleading guilty to a felony, for which he was not immediately imprisoned.
Now, he said he had been working for two months as a carpenter for an unnamed employer. Before he had said he had been working for three months as a carpenter for a specific employer. Before he said he had worked once as a “rock cutter.” Now he said he had worked once as a “grass cutter.”
Perhaps these were botched translations.
But his answer to the drug question was unambiguous. Before he said he had not used drugs in the month before his arrest. Now, the PSA said, “Defendant reports current alcohol abuse. Defendant indicates drug use within the past month.”
Before, PSA had not been able to verify his claims. Now PSA said it had verified his claims through an unidentified “friend” to whom Guandique had referred them.
At the time of Guandique’s first arrest on May 7, the police had run his thumbprint through the FBI’s criminal database. This showed that the then-19-year-old alien had not previously been arrested in the United States.
On July 2, at the second PSA interview — twelve days after he had agreed to plead guilty to burglary — the PSA still concluded he had “no prior convictions in the District of Columbia.”
This time, however, the judge did not release Guandique on a promise. He was held without bail. In September, he pleaded guilty to two counts of assault with intent to commit robbery.
Prior to his February sentencing, his two assult victims wrote their letters to the judge.
“I do not doubt for a minute that he purposefully stalked me as a hunter tracks his pray,” wrote the first victim. “I know in my gut that, given the chance, he would not hesitate to repeat his crime on some other woman and it scares me to think what would happen if she was not prepared with some sort of self defense.”
The second victim came to the same conclusion. “I feel certain that this man will attack other women if he is not incarcerated,” she wrote.
The prosecutor repeated the point. “There is no reason to believe that the defendant will cease this [sic] attacks on women if released to the community,” she told the judge in a sentencing memorandum. “Rock Creek Park alone could provide him with a constant stream of victims.”
Guandique, for his part, according to the prosecutor’s memorandum, “steadfastly denies possessing a knife during the attacks.” At one point, she said, “he insisted that the victims may have mistaken his bracelet for a weapon.” The prosecutor dismissed this claim as “ludicrous” in light of the “level of certainty” in the independent and uncoordinated testimony of the victims.
“In a debriefing,” the prosecutor said in her memo, “the defendant represented that his attacks in May and July were both motivated by the simple desire to obtain a Walkman Radio.”
In issuing her sentence, Judge Noel Kramer called Guandique “predatory.” She gave him two ten-year sentences to be served concurrently. Another judge gave him nine months for the burglary, also to be served concurrently.
After his prison term, he can be deported. If our borders are not secured by then, he can come back.
On May 22, Chandra Levy’s body was found in Rock Creek Park not far from where Guandique attacked his two victims.
Chandra, too, had been wearing jogging clothes and a Walkman.