U.S. News

DUI suspect in hit-run crash that left boy, 6, badly hurt was deported 15 times

A drunken driving suspect in a hit-and-run crash that severely injured a 6-year-old boy in San Ysidro over the weekend had been deported from the U.S. at least 15 times, authorities said Tuesday.

Constantino Banda-Acosta, 38, was last deported Jan. 18, with at least 14 prior cases since 2002, federal authorities said.

Banda-Acosta is accused of speeding west on Camino de La Plaza, running a stop sign at Dairy Mart Road and slamming his pickup into a Honda Accord about 11:30 p.m. Saturday. The pickup driver did not stop.

Banda-Acosta, a Mexican citizen, was arrested about half an hour later, San Diego police and the U.S. Border Patrol said.

The car that was struck was occupied by a family driving home after a day trip to Disneyland. They were a block away from their home when the crash occurred, a relative said.

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Six-year-old Lennox was seriously injured in the crash. He is seen in a photo posted to a GoFundMe account.

The speeding Chevrolet Silverado hit the driver and passenger’s side where the boy, Lennox Lake, was sitting in his car seat, said his grandmother, Cheryl Lake.

The boy’s father, Benjamin, became trapped. His wife, Ingrid, crawled out of the front passenger seat and rushed to aid Lennox, who was unconscious, not breathing and bleeding from his nostrils, ears and head, his grandmother said.

The child suffered a major head injury and was taken to a hospital. As of Tuesday night, he had undergone two surgeries at Rady Children’s Hospital, Cheryl Lake said.

Despite a long road ahead, his family and doctors are “cautiously optimistic” the boy will make a full recovery, his grandmother said.

She described Lennox as a friendly and smart boy.

“The kid makes friends everywhere he goes. He’s just a delight as a grandson,” Cheryl Lake said, fighting back tears.

Lennox has two older brothers, 14 and 16, who did not join the family on the trip to Disneyland. His family set up a GoFundMe page to raise funds for the medical bills and other expenses.

Soon after the collision, Border Patrol agents came upon the family’s wrecked Honda and fanned out in search of the hit-and-run driver.

A few blocks away, shortly after midnight, agents found a damaged pickup that matched the description Ingrid Lake gave them. Inside were two men, who were detained.

Banda-Acosta was identified as the driver. He was booked into jail on suspicion of felony hit-and-run with injury, drunken driving with injury and driving without a valid license.

The Border Patrol took custody of Banda-Acosta’s passenger, also an unauthorized immigrant, agency officials said.

Banda-Acosta is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday . He was being held on $100,000 bail.

His criminal history includes arrests stemming from domestic violence allegations against his wife of 18 years, Chula Vista police Capt. Fritz Reber said. Chula Vista police arrested Banda-Acosta April 9, 2006 and Jan. 9 of this year.

ICE spokeswoman Lauren Mack said the agency would again seek deportation for Banda-Acosta after any conviction and sentence is served in connection with the DUI and hit-and-run crash.

The agency confirmed that, given its longstanding relationship with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, ICE is confident Banda-Acosta will be released to the agency once his criminal case is settled.

Cheryl Lake, the boy’s grandmother, was shocked and at a loss for words when a Union-Tribune reporter shared information about the number of times Banda-Acosta has been deported.

She said she couldn’t wrap her mind around how Banda-Acosta repeatedly entered the country illegally.

“There are not enough words to describe the huge impact his actions have had,” she said.

ICE confirmed that 15 removals is a significant number and indicates an egregious immigration violation.

San Diegans who support Trump‘s immigration policies saw the incident as proof that his plans are needed.

“Why do we continue to accept these travesties day after day?” said Imperial Beach resident Ernie Griffes via email. “Our state legislators encourage it with legislation.

“We need vetting, rules, order, structure. At a minimum, criminals need to go,” said Patti Brasga via email.

San Diegans who oppose Trump’s immigration policies spoke out against using this case to depict all immigrants as criminals.

“Drunk driving is a nation-wide problem that has affected the lives of far too many,” said Andrea Guerrero, executive director of Alliance San Diego, via email. “Using the pain and suffering of victims and their families to vilify a single community is irresponsible and unhelpful. We all need to work together, immigrants and citizens alike, in an atmosphere of trust in order to solve public safety issues.”

Because of the Banda-Acosta’s immigration history, the boy and his family will be eligible for help from the new Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement, or VOICE, office created by President Donald Trump in an executive order. The office aids victims of crimes committed by unauthorized immigrants.

The office was announced at the end of April and plans to study statistics related to unauthorized immigrants and crime in addition to supporting victims.

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