Illegal Immigrant Gets 16 Years for Taking Life of Phoenix Cop in DUI Collision

An illegal immigrant who was drunk when he smashed into a Phoenix police car last year, killing Officer Shane Figueroa, was sentenced today to 16 years in prison.

Salvador Vivas-Diaz, 50, turned left in front of Figueroa's cruiser on October 25, 2008, in the intersection of 19th Avenue and Roeser. Vivas-Diaz' truck "spun the patrol car and sent it into a block wall," says one account. Figueroa flew out of his car and died a while later.

The 25-year-old officer with two years on the job had been responding to an emergency call about shots being fired. He left a wife and baby behind. The Maricopa County Attorney's Office noted in October that just a month before, the office had won a conviction in the case of a man who took shots at Figueroa and another officer.

Vivas-Diaz, meanwhile, is another poster child for immigration reform. (There are so many). He'd been deported four times previously and worried his neighbors because his drinking problem was so severe.

We just can't figure it out: Does this type of thing argue for or against clarifying the status of illegal immigrants? Maybe Vivas-Diaz would have checked into rehab if he wasn't worried about being deported. On the other hand, being deported doesn't seem to faze him.

Or does it matter either way? After all, the majority of DUI-related deaths in this state are caused by citizens.

Fact is, cases like these may serve to drive debate on immigration, but even after a "solution" finally arises, drunk-driving deaths will still be happening.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.