Two troopers place a photo of slain Washington State Patrol trooper Chris Gadd outside District 7 Headquarters about twelve hours after Gadd was struck and killed on southbound I-5 about a mile from the headquarters on Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Marysville, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Two troopers place a photo of slain Washington State Patrol trooper Chris Gadd outside District 7 Headquarters about twelve hours after Gadd was struck and killed on southbound I-5 about a mile from the headquarters on Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Marysville, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Judge reduces bail for driver accused of killing Marysville trooper

After hearing from Raul Benitez Santana’s family, a judge decreased bail to $100,000. A deputy prosecutor said he was “very disappointed.”

MARYSVILLE — A judge this week dropped the bail from $1 million to $100,000 for the man held in jail charged with the crash that killed Washington State Patrol trooper Chris Gadd.

Since the crash early in the morning of March 2, Raul Benitez Santana has remained in the Snohomish County Jail facing charges of vehicular homicide and vehicular assault. He allegedly consumed cannabis and beer before driving on I-5 south near Marysville, where Gadd was parked on the shoulder.

Benitez Santana, 33, drove on the shoulder and crashed into Gadd’s patrol car, according to the charges. Gadd, 27, died at the scene. Data from Benitez Santana’s GMC Yukon Denali reportedly showed he was driving 112 mph seconds before the crash.

The defendant’s blood, sampled about 1½ hours after the crash, had a blood-alcohol content of 0.083, just above the legal limit, according to court documents filed last month.

Raul Benitez Santana appears in court via video on charges of vehicular homicide Monday, March 4, 2024, at Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Raul Benitez Santana appears in court via video on charges of vehicular homicide Monday, March 4, 2024, at Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

This week, Benitez Santana’s attorneys asked Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Richard Okrent to release him from jail, arguing he is not a risk to commit other crimes and he would appear at future court hearings. Benitez Santana has no felony convictions, but does have several misdemeanors for driving with a suspended license.

The attorneys, Emily Hancock and Tiffany Mecca, noted in court filings that Benitez Santana has long lived in Washington, despite his status as an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. The Department of Homeland Security placed an immigration detainer on him, seeking to deport him from the United States, according to court documents.

Hancock and Mecca wrote their client has three children and worked as a mechanic. He has many relatives in the Puget Sound region. They noted he didn’t have the money to post the $1 million bail.

“If released, his parents will welcome him back into their home,” the attorneys wrote. “He is not a flight risk.”

In letters to Judge Okrent, the defendant’s family pleaded for his release.

Meanwhile, Gadd’s widow objected to the defense’s push for Benitez Santana’s release.

“Reducing bail would not only undermine the severity of the crime but also inflict further anguish and distress upon me, our child, and the rest of our family,” Cammryn Gadd wrote in a letter to the judge.

Gadd began working for the state patrol in September 2021 as a trooper cadet assigned to Grandview, Yakima County. His father, David, is also a state trooper in King County. Gadd was also survived by his daughter, 2. After his death in March, hundreds of police officers attended a public memorial for him at Angel of the Winds Arena.

On Wednesday, Okrent reduced the defendant’s bail to $100,000.

In an email Friday, deputy prosecutor Tobin Darrow said he was “very disappointed in Judge Okrent’s decision.”

The defendant’s attorneys applauded the decision.

“Mr. Benitez-Santana is a long-time member of our community, and Washington State is undeniably his home,” Hancock and Mecca wrote in an email Friday. “The court did the right thing when it upheld the laws and policies of the State of Washington and lowered bail in this case.”

The defense worried officers from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service may arrest Benitez Santana if he posted bail, interfering with future court proceedings in this case.

“The United States and Washington State Constitutions unequivocally guarantee all individuals in our country the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial,” the defense attorneys said. “It is imperative that no government entity, including INS, be allowed to circumvent these fundamental rights.”

Darrow said if Benitez Santana posts bond, he hopes federal authorities would return Benitez Santana to Snohomish County to stand trial.

Benitez Santana remained in jail Friday.

Jake Goldstein-Street: 425-339-3439; jake.goldstein-street@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @GoldsteinStreet.

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