Traffic charge filed in I-270 crash that killed deputy fire marshal and FBI agent

WASHINGTON — The driver in the December 2017 crash on southbound Interstate 270, that killed a deputy state fire marshal and off-duty FBI officer has been charged with negligent driving, a traffic offense that carries no possibility of jail time.

Roberto Garza Palacios, 28, of Germantown, Maryland faces a maximum fine of $280 and three points on his driver’s license, but no jail time in connection with the crash that killed Deputy Chief State Fire Marshal Sander Cohen and FBI Special Agent Carlos Wolff.

In a statement, Maryland State Police said Garza Palacios met with troopers at the Rockville Barrack in mid-April and was issued the citation.

The charge comes after a review of the investigation by the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office.

Under Maryland law, negligent driving is defined as a “lesser included offense” of reckless driving.

For the more-serious charge of reckless driving, prosecutors must be able to prove wanton or willful disregard for the safety of other people or property around them.

Garza Palacios’s negligent driving charge alleges he operated his vehicle in a “careless or imprudent manner, endangering property, life and person.”

According to state police, Cohen came upon Wolff’s personal vehicle disabled in the left travel lane. Cohen called the state police Rockville barrack, and blocked the damaged vehicle with his own, while activating his emergency flashers.

Cohen and Wolff were standing in the left shoulder lane, next to a concrete median, when they were hit and thrown over the jersey wall to the northbound side of I-270, according to police.

Maryland court records show Garza Palacios had a previous conviction for negligent driving, in 2015. However, in that case, his driving did not result in an accident.

Garza Palacios’s trial date in District Court is July 12.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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