CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Two Armus & Jane Wester//The Charlotte Observer) - The man arrested following a nine-hour standoff in south Charlotte Thursday had been released from county jail last week — even though immigration officials had placed a detainer on him, federal authorities say.
The case of Luis Pineda-Ancheta is the result of Mecklenburg County’s shifting policies on how local law enforcement does — or doesn’t — cooperate with federal officials on immigration enforcement.
Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden effectively stopped collaborating with federal authorities on immigration enforcement, including on honoring detainers, following his election in November.
Pineda-Ancheta, 37, had refused to leave an apartment off Sharon Road West, barricading himself inside the walls, as police tried to serve him multiple warrants on domestic violence charges and a SWAT unit was called.
Barely a week earlier, he had been booked into jail on similar charges, allegedly against the same victim, and released on bond despite the detainer.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials had warned that the sheriff’s office decision would create a public safety risk by putting dangerous criminals back on the street — and this incident, they say, confirms that warning. Pineda-Ancheta, a native of Honduras, has been deported from the U.S. once before.
The warrants for his arrest Thursday were on charges of assault by strangulation, kidnapping, assault on a female, communicating threats and violation of a domestic violence protective order, according to jail records.
“When law enforcement agencies fail to honor immigration detainers and release serious criminal offenders onto the streets, it undermines ICE’s ability to protect public safety and carry out its mission,” said Sean Gallagher, who oversees ICE’s operations in Georgia and the Carolinas.
A district court judge issued a protective order to keep Pineda-Ancheta away from a woman on May 7, according to arrest warrants.
He was then arrested on May 15, when he was charged with assault on a female, communicating threats, felony larceny, simple assault and injury to personal property, according to jail records. ICE placed a detainer on him the following day, and he was released from jail one day later, on May 17.
Police say he committed another domestic assault against the same woman on May 21.
Pineda-Ancheta’s release is consistent with McFadden’s stated policy of noncooperation with ICE: Since his election, the sheriff’s office does not honor ICE detainers or notify ICE when it is releasing an inmate who has had a detainer placed on them.
The sheriff’s office refused to comment.
McFadden had campaigned on a policy of ending Mecklenburg’s participation in the controversial 287(g) program, which enables sheriff’s deputies to carry out immigration enforcement. Since 2006, that arrangement put over 15,000 immigrants living here illegally into deportation proceedings.
Immigration advocates have applauded his overall shift in policy, arguing that it increases trust of local law enforcement among immigrants, both with legal status or without it.
But McFadden didn’t just eliminate 287(g), which acts as a “force expansion” by allowing sheriff’s deputies to check the legal status of inmates.
He also stopped honoring ICE detainers, which keep inmates living here illegally locked up in jail — and then, allow ICE officers to take custody of those inmates. And like other newly elected North Carolina sheriffs, McFadden also stopped notifying ICE when inmates with detainers were released from jail.
It’s those moves that immigration officials have jumped on, particularly in recent months.
Gallagher, of ICE, said in December that McFadden’s decision to cut ties with ICE serves as an “open invitation” that says Mecklenburg County is now a “safe haven for persons seeking to evade federal authorities.”