GOLDEN, Colo. (CBS4) – A total of 36 felony charges have been filed by prosecutors against Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos, the 23-year-old truck driver blamed for last week’s fiery crash on Interstate 70. The crash on April 25 killed four men, seriously injured two more, left several others with minor injuries and involved nearly 30 vehicles.
“He was operating the vehicle under circumstances where he was exhibiting extreme indifference to the value of human life,” Jefferson County District Attorney Pete Weir said Friday.
Weir announced Friday that Aguilera-Mederos, a truck driver from Houston, faces charges that include vehicular homicide and first-degree assault. The total number of charges he faces is 40.
“There is a relationship between each count that was filed and a separate individual that either died, was seriously hurt, or was placed in extraordinary risk of seriously bodily injury or death,” Weir said. “The number of counts reflects the magnitude of the incident and the number of people that were hurt or could have been hurt by his actions.”
The crash happened on Interstate 70 at Denver West Parkway near the Colorado Mills shopping mall and led to an extended closure of the highway. Weir said that Aguilera-Mederos’s actions before it are what led to the filing of the charges.
Aguilera-Mederos appeared in court from jail on a video monitor.
“(Aguilera-Mederos) was observed at the western part of I-70 at the general area of the Genesee Parkway/exit and Lookout Mountain driving extremely fast and in a reckless manner,” Weir said. “The speed limit for a commercial vehicle that (Aguilera-Mederos) was operating — a semi truck with a trailer — is 45 mph. The estimated speed of (Aguilera-Mederos) at that time and at subsequent times proceeding eastbound on I-70 was in excess of 85 mph.”
Weir said several drivers witnessed Aguilera driving his truck recklessly before the crash, “swerving through various lanes of the road.”
Aguilera-Mederos’s wife released a statement this week saying he’s innocent because he lost his brakes, but video has been publicly released that investigators believe shows him driving erratically for miles, even past a truck ramp where he had a chance to leave the interstate.
Two women cried when he appeared on the video screen in court. There were tears, but no comments as they left the courtroom.
The crash killed William Bailey, 67, and Stanley Politano, 69, both of Arvada, plus Doyle Harrison, 61, of Hudson and Miguel Angel Lamas Arellano, 24, of Denver.
Rob Corry, Aguilera-Mederos’s lawyer, said his client did everything he could to prevent the fatal crash from happening. Corry said the charges being filed are too harsh for what he calls an accident.
“This is a massive, unprecedented overreach by the prosecution. To charge first degree assault — a crime of violence — on a vehicle accident? Everybody who has looked at this — from the law enforcement, Colorado Department of Transportation, State Patrol, experts up and down all agree this is an accident,” Corry said.
When CBS4’s Rick Sallinger asked Corry if his client could read the sign that indicated a ramp for runaway trucks, Corry replied, “This is ongoing investigation.”
Aguilera-Mederos’s next court appearance has been scheduled for July 11. He remains in custody on $400,000 bond.