Salem community reacts to deadly car crash in homeless camp

Published: Mar. 28, 2022 at 7:03 PM PDT
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SALEM, Ore. (KPTV)—The Salem Community is still processing a deadly car crash that killed four people and injured two others early Sunday morning.

FOX 12 spoke with Matthew Maceira, the Executive Director of Be Bold Street Ministries, Monday. His organization does outreach to the unhoused to help them connect to services. He said he heard about the crash early that morning and quickly made his way down to Front Street Northeast near Division Street Northeast.

“I was crying. It was going to be very difficult for me to not do that now,” Maceira said. “Because, no matter what somebody’s life currently consists of they’re no less than a neighbor.”

Maceira said he arrived as they were putting the last body in a body bag. He said he met one of the victims who died Sunday at an outreach event earlier in the year.

“He was crying and he looks at me and he says ‘You know God does love me. You guys love me,’” Maceira said. “I said absolutely do and that’s why we’re here.”

At the time of the interview, Salem Police still hadn’t released the names of the victims. So Maceira didn’t specify which of the victims he met. Late in the afternoon, police released the names of the four people killed and the two that were injured. Jowand Beck, 24, Luke Kagey, 21, Joe Posada III, 54, and Rochelle Zamacona, 29, were killed as a result from the  crash. Derrick Hart, 43, and Savanah Miller, 18, were the two injured and police said they’re still recovering at a local hospital.

Maceira said people living on the streets are living in constant danger where there is not a truly safe place to sleep.

“Our unsheltered neighbors being hit my motor vehicles is fairly common, I’ve seen it happen and I’ve seen drivers attempt to run away,” Maceira said.

Salem Mayor Chuck Bennet posted this statement on the city’s Facebook page:

“On behalf of the City and myself, my condolences go out to the friends and family of those affected by this terrible tragedy.  We continue to offer alternatives to unmanaged camping and encourage people to access those resources.”

The driver, 24-year-old Enrique Rodriguez, was arraigned in Marion County Court on Monday as well. Prosecutors say his blood alcohol level was .26 when he was tested at the hospital after the crash. They also say he was driving 70 miles per hour when his car left the road.

For Maceira, he said the next time anyone drivers by an encampment in their community, he wants them to think about this:

“Our unsheltered neighbors are no less than a neighbor than any other neighbor whether there’s a tent, whether it’s like what I had, just a semi water proof jacket, or somebody is in a stick built home,” Maceira said. “They’re our neighbors.”