Family of victims of DWI crash allegedly caused by off-duty officer speak out

Albuquerque News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The family of DWI crash victims are still reeling from the recent loss. This comes nearly a week after an off-duty police officer allegedly drove the wrong way on I-25 while drunk and crashed into their loved ones.     

The family said they’re devastated and frustrated that a man who pledged his life to serve and protect took the lives of two of their loved ones and left one family member still fighting for his life.

“Always the light to the family, always,” said Lizeth Arellano. “They’re more full of joy.”

That light brought by 50-year-old Alfredo Escaname-Hernandez and 21-year-old Diego Arellano Robles was taken away. Their family member Federico Escaname said they were the victims hit head-on by off-duty Cuba police officer Brandon Barber.

Barber is accused of driving drunk the wrong way on I-25 in the early morning on May 1st. “The worst part of it just because being a police officer you’re supposed to serve and protect, you take an oath that you’re an officer 24/7,” said Escaname. “I don’t think this is something you lead by example, it’s truly not.”

Family said the two men weren’t the only ones in the car at the time of the crash, 21-year-old Fernando Arellano was reportedly behind the wheel and is now in critical condition at UNMH. The family said all three men were very close family members from Denver who were driving to Mexico to help out other family members with renovating their home. They said communication with New Mexico authorities has been difficult as the family continues to absorb the devastating news. 

“It’s hard to believe even right now, and it’s more difficult because we physically still don’t have them,” said Arellano. “Like they’re still not here. We’re still trying to figure out how to transport them to be with us.”   

Barber was charged with three counts of vehicular homicide, aggravated DWI, and possession of an open container. He just made his first appearance in court this past week where a judge allowed him to be released to his parents and not allowed to drive.

The family of the victims says they still want justice. “To Brandon, you took my father from me, you took Diego from his family, you critically injured Fernando and traumatized him,” said Escaname. “I just hope you see the justice you deserve.”   

Arellano is still in critical condition Sunday at UNMH. His family said he underwent his second surgery Sunday to address bleeding in his brain and other serious injuries from the crash. The family has created a GoFundMe for funeral and medical expenses for their loved ones.

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