University of Georgia murder sparks finger-pointing over immigration

Laken Riley's death was "preventable," said Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp.

February 27, 2024, 7:50 PM

The New York Police Department is pushing back after an official from Immigration and Customs Enforcement claimed the Venezuelan suspect arrested for Laken Riley's murder was previously arrested and released by NYPD in 2023.

Jose Antonio Ibarra, 26, was charged with malice murder, felony murder, aggravated battery, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, kidnapping, obstructing an emergency call and concealing the death of another.

"There is no arrest on file with the name provided in 2023," NYPD said in a statement on Tuesday.

He was denied bond during an initial court appearance on Saturday and is being held at the Clarke County Jail.

PHOTO: Police tape ropes off the crime scene on a trail behind Lake Herrick in Athens, Georgia, at the University of Georgia, on Feb. 23, 2024.
Police tape ropes off the crime scene on a trail behind Lake Herrick in Athens, Georgia, at the University of Georgia, on Feb. 23, 2024.
Jason Getz/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution via ZUMA Press Wire

NYPD's Tuesday release came in response to a statement on Sunday from ICE, which said Ibarra had been arrested on Sept. 8, 2022, by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) "after unlawfully entering the United States near El Paso, Texas."

"He was paroled and released for further processing," ICE said. "On Sept. 14, 2023, [Jose] Ibarra was arrested by the New York Police Department and charged with acting in a manner to injure a child less than 17 and a motor vehicle license violation," the statement continued.

"He was released by the NYPD before a detainer could be issued. On Feb. 23, 2024, ERO [Enforcement and Removal Operations] Atlanta encountered Ibarra pursuant to his arrest by the University of Georgia Police Department and being charged with murder and other crimes. ERO Atlanta lodged a detainer."

An ICE spokesperson on Tuesday stood by the agency's record keeping, but could not explain the dispute. ICE first said Ibarra was arrested and released by NYPD before federal officials could ask for his detention.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp addressed the Athens-Clarke Chamber of Commerce on Monday, calling Riley's death "preventable."

PHOTO: Laken Riley is seen in an undated photo.
Laken Riley is seen in an undated photo.
Augusta University

"First of all, [the family is] devastated. They are heartbroken. Marty and I both can understand. Our daughters are at the University of Georgia, and they work out in that same area [as Laken Riley]," Kemp said. "They're also mad like I am that this happened. It was preventable because we just have a nightmare in this country with mass migration and then have people that are here illegally breaking our laws and they're not telling anybody and reporting this to us."

The 22-year-old nursing student was found in a wooded area on campus on Thursday with "visible injuries," the university said. She died from blunt force trauma, according to University of Georgia Police Department Chief Jeffrey Clark.

Police do not believe he knew the victim and do not have a motive, according to the chief.

"I think this was a crime of opportunity, where he saw an individual and bad things happened," Clark said.

ABC News' Aaron Katersky and Quinn Owen contributed to this report.

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