Federal officials are surprised that the man accused of shooting to death a Buckeye police officer this week was wrongly classified as a U.S. citizen.
According to Vince Picard with the Phoenix office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 27-year-old Cesar Tomas Quiroz-Leon was transferred to Arizona in 2009 after completing prison time in California.
"At one time, Quiroz-Leon was a legal, permanent resident with a green card," Picard said, "but after serving a sentence for a felony, he should have been deported."
How Quiroz-Leon fell through the cracks is still a mystery.
According to the Merced County Superior Court, Quiroz-Leon served five years in California state prison for numerous counts, including gang activity, weapons charges and vehicle theft. Upon release, he was transferred here to Arizona to be closer to family.
Problem is, ICE was never notified about his release or transfer to Arizona, because the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation had mistakenly classified Quiroz-Leon as a U.S. citizen.
Today there are high-tech biometric and fingerprint systems in place to make sure foreign-born criminals don't get away. But that system wasn't in place in 2004 when Quiroz-Leon was first arrested, and at some point, it appears his paperwork was misclassified.
Picard said ICE is waiting for official files from Washington on Quiroz-Leon to determine how he fell through the cracks.
Quiroz-Leon was killed Sunday in the gun battle with police that followed the execution-style killing of the Buckeye officer.
A funeral announcement says he will be buried at his birthplace, in Mexico.
Copyright 2011 by KPHO.com. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.