Enrique Rodriguez Jr drunk driver charged after crashing into Salem, Oregon homeless camp killing four and injuring three others.
‘I just want a safe place to go to.’ A 24 year old drunk driver has been arrested for allegedly ‘slamming’ his sports coupe vehicle into a Salem, Oregon homeless camp and killing four over the weekend according to reports.
Enrique Rodriguez Jr of Salem according to a Salem Police Department news release was charged with four counts of first-degree manslaughter, second and third-degree assault and six counts of reckless endangerment.
The man was booked into He was booked into the Marion County Jail.
Along with the four deaths, three other individuals were injured when Rodriguez drove into several tents, early Sunday morning, circa 2 am, KGW News reported.
Salem authorities said the local police traffic team believes ‘alcohol may have been a contributing factor’ in the crash.
‘It was just chaos…’
Eyewitness Nathan Rose told the Salem Statesman Journal that he and his girlfriend were in their tent when they heard two loud thuds. The car just missed their tent, he added.
Rose also said he saw some of his friends pinned underneath the vehicle and called 911 before pulling one person out from under the car, though witnesses were unable to help the others.
‘From there, it was just chaos,’ Rose told the Salem Statesman Journal.
Police said that Rodriguez was the only occupant of the two-door sports coupe.
The crash happened near a new men´s shelter, which has beds for about 300 people and a program that offers emergency housing assistance for the homeless.
The camp is a small triangle of trees and grass close to the Willamette River.
Two people who were at the encampment died at the scene.
In search of a safe place to sleep and rest
Four others were taken to Salem Health with with life-threatening injuries and two died at the hospital.
The driver was also taken to the hospital.
Officials have not released the victims´names or the conditions of those who remain hospitalized.
Jimmy Jones, executive director of the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency, said homeless people spend much of their day trying to find a safe place to sleep and rest, ‘but events like this remind us that there is no safe space.’
More than 1,000 people sleep outside in the Salem area on any given night. The city has a population of over 175,000, according to the 2020 U.S. census.
Mike Wade came to the camp after hearing one of his close friends had died.
West coast cities like Portland have terrible problems with homelessness, yet policy has been ineffective and based on misunderstandings of the problem. A new book underscores that homelessness is about supply (Oregon is short 140,000 housing units). https://t.co/ugZb9HmPYQ
— Nicholas Kristof (@NickKristof) March 25, 2022
Solving homelessness and jarring statistics
He helped others in the camp salvage their belongings and prayed for the victims.
‘It gets me weaker every day hearing about us die one by one,’ Wade said.
‘My friends are dead and I don’t know what to say.’
In nearby Portland, city officials issued an emergency declaration last month banning camping in high-crash areas after a Portland Bureau of Transportation crash report for 2021 found one in three traffic death victims were people experiencing homelessness.