No criminal charges for driver who killed FBI agent, fire marshal on I-270

GAITHERBURG, Md. — Criminal charges will not be filled against the man who killed an FBI agent and a deputy state fire marshal on Interstate 270 in December 2017.

The decision comes after prosecutors in Montgomery County found there was not enough to charge Roberto Garza Palacios, 28, of Germantown with anything more than a traffic violation.

“This is just a really, really nasty accident,” said Garza Palacios’ attorney Asim Humayun.

On Dec. 8, FBI agent Carlos Wolff and Deputy State Fire Marshal Sander Cohen were struck by a car driven by Garza Palacios as they stood in the left shoulder lane of I-270, next to a concrete median wall.

Cohen had stopped to help Wolff after his car had become disabled, according to police.

Humayun said his client swerved into the shoulder to avoid striking the stopped vehicle that Wolff and Cohen were standing beside.

“He didn’t even know he had hit anybody initially, because his air bags deployed as soon as he hit the median,” Humayun said.

Carlos Wolff’s children at their late father’s tombstone. (Courtey Wolff family)

Garza Palacios was cited for negligent driving and fined $280, which he paid on June 25, according to court records. Humayun said a thorough investigation took place and the result was a proper one.

“We’re just absolutely irate,” said Marla Wolff, Carlos Wolff’s widow.

Wolff believes Garza Palacios, who immigration officials said is in the country illegally, should have at least had his driver’s license suspended.

“For him to just be given this small fine to pay is just ridiculous,” Wolff said.

Carlos Wolff’s sister Linda Wolff Gaviria believes that after Garza Palacios was given a previous citation in 2015 for negligent driving, he should have been taken off the road.

She said in a statement that her family is made up of immigrants who have worked hard and have contributed to the community, and that living in the United States is a privilege.

“People like Roberto Garza Palacios have squandered that opportunity,” Gaviria said.

Humayun said his client’s immigration status or past record had no bearing on this case.

The attorney said his client is devastated by what happened and wanted to reach out to the Wolff and Cohen family, but was advised against doing so.

“I understand that they are angry and upset, possibly with the state’s investigation, but at the end of the day, it was an accident,” Humayun said.

Wolff said the months since the death of her husband have been filled with pain for her family, including the couple’s two young children.

“My kids don’t have their father anymore. Father’s Day was so hard,” Wolff cried.

The family spent the past Father’s Day at Carlos’ grave site, something Wolff called the family’s “new reality.”

As they heal, Wolff said she plans to turn her attention to pushing lawmakers to tighten laws which could result in tougher penalties in cases such as Garza Palacios in the future.

“We don’t want anyone else to go through these horrific losses,” Wolff said

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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