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ICE blames slaying of 92-year-old Queens woman on New York's sanctuary city status

Posted: 3:35 PM, Jan 14, 2020
Updated: 2020-01-15 14:29:12-05
maria fuertes deadly assault.jpg

OZONE PARK, Queens — The man charged with murder and sexual abuse in the death of a 92-year-old Queens woman wouldn't have been on the street if New York were not a sanctuary city, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said Tuesday.

Police arrested Reeaz Khan, 21, on Nov. 27 of 2019. Thomas Decker, field office director for ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations in New York, said ICE had issued an active detainer against Khan and that police didn't honor it, instead releasing Khan after his arraignment. An NYPD spokeswoman disputed this claim and said the NYPD did not receive a detainer against Khan while he was in custody. But an ICE spokesperson said it was sent to central booking in Queens with a fax cover sheet : the transmission receipt shows date and time as Nov. 27 at 7:41 a.m.

“It is made clear that New York City’s stance against honoring detainers is dangerously flawed," Decker said. "It was a deadly choice to release a man on an active ICE detainer back onto the streets after his first arrest included assault and weapon charges, and he now faces new charges, including murder."

Khan allegedly threw Maria Fuertes to the ground in Richmond Hill, sexually assaulted her and ran from the scene. Fuertes was found unconscious and unresponsive there on Jan. 6. Her clothes had been pulled above her waist and she was near death, Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said. Fuertes died at a local hospital.

Maria Fuertes was found unconscious and unresponsive on the ground on 127th Street in Ozone Park, near her 103rd Road home, on Jan. 6 just after midnight, police said.

"This was senseless, brutal act of violence," Katz said.

New York’s status as a sanctuary city allows to shield undocumented immigrants who have broken the law from deportation requests, in some cases.

Mayoral spokeswoman Olivia Lapeyrolerie said the city will cooperate with federal officials if Khan is convicted.

“We mourn with the family of Ms. Fuertes," Lapeyrolerie said. "It is shameful that the Trump Administration is politicizing this tragedy.”

The NYPD told PIX11 "Reeaz Khan was last arrested on November 27, 2019. At that time, the NYPD did not receive an ICE detainer in regard to this individual. Our responses to detainer requests are dictated by local law."

This story has been updated, linking to ICE's tweet of an 11/27 fax cover sheet.