Some violent felons wanted in San Joaquin County don't face extradition

Wanted felons are escaping justice simply by crossing state lines, a nine month investigation with our partners at USA Today revealed.

It's all because the law enforcement agencies who issued warrants for their arrests aren't willing to extradite them from other states, according to the FBI's National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database of fugitives.

Many of these fugitives are wanted for serious felonies, including murder, rape and kidnapping. Sometimes these fugitives are already locked up in other states, but the agency that issued the warrant simply isn't willing to collect them.

There are over 180,000 wanted felons nationwide that police have already decided they won't extradite. In Los Angeles, for example, police won't pursue 77 homicide suspects across state lines.

A man who hacked his roommate's neck with a machete over two cans of beer in Naples, Florida was entered into the NCIC database as a fugitive police wouldn't extradite if found out of state.

News10 pored over the NCIC database to determine if any law enforcement agencies in the Sacramento area were letting wanted felons get away by crossing state borders.

The Sacramento Police Department and Sacramento County Sheriff's Department were almost always willing to extradite felons across state lines.

Of nearly 3,000 wanted felons, there were only 13 that Sacramento law enforcement agencies said they wouldn't extradite. None of them were wanted for violent crimes.

Farther south, in San Joaquin County, the numbers didn't look as good

The San Joaquin County Sheriff's Department entered 833 wanted felons into the NCIC database, but indicated they wouldn't extradite 267 of them.

But unlike Sacramento, some of these fugitives were wanted for violent crimes.

Out of 14 wanted fugitives for violent crimes, the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Department would not extradite seven of them. Five of those fugitives are wanted for homicide and one for kidnapping.

The same goes for fugitives wanted for sex crimes. Out of 43 suspects wanted for sex crimes, the department indicated they would not extradite 17 of them.

Getting an explanation from the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Department wasn't easy.

Deputy Les Garcia, the department's public information officer, would only comment if presented with the specific case numbers for the wanted felons, which are not included in the NCIC database.

"The report you're referring to we did not generate, so I really don't have information about that report," Garcia said.

Although the report wasn't generated by the sheriff's department, the data in the NCIC database is entered by the individual law enforcement agency, not the FBI.

News10 asked if the department could compare the warrant dates from the NCIC database with the ones in their own system, but Garcia said they would not do that.

However, after speaking to somebody in the sheriff's records department, Garcia said the numbers in the NCIC database may not be accurate. He said after the Department of Justice made some changes to the database in 2013, prior entries may have been changed to no extradition warrants.

Glitch or no glitch, if these fugitives were picked up by police out of state, the NCIC database would still tell them the sheriff's department wouldn't extradite.

No other law enforcement agencies contacted nationwide for this story mentioned this potential computer glitch.

The founders of the non-profit Victims of Violent Crimes of San Joaquin County were troubled by the data.

Flipping through a binder of dozens of homicide victims, Joyce Tuhn questioned how a department could put a price on human life.

"If it was one of their family members how would they feel about it then?" Tuhn said. "It would be completely different then."

Wilma Pierce, one of the group's other organizers, was also disturbed by the numbers.

"It makes me mad," Pierce said. "It makes me angry. It's very upsetting."

San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Robert Himelblau was also surprised by the numbers.

He said he couldn't think of a possible scenario where a law enforcement agency wouldn't want to extradite a homicide suspect, no matter the cost.

Himelblau said the D.A.'s office would want any homicide suspect extradited, though he couldn't comment on the numbers because they were entered into the NCIC database by the sheriff's department.

USA Today has compiled its nationwide findings in this exclusive report.


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