University of Georgia killing sparks blame game over immigration

Laken Riley's death was “preventable,” Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said.

February 27, 2024, 7:50 p.m. ET

5 minutes read

The New York Police Department is fighting back after an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent claimed that the Venezuelan suspect arrested for Laken Riley's murder was arrested and released by the NYPD as early as 2023.

Jose Antonio Ibarra, 26, was charged with first-degree murder, aggravated murder, aggravated assault, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, kidnapping, obstructing an emergency call and concealing the death of another.

“There is no record arrest for the name provided in 2023,” the NYPD said in a statement on Tuesday.

He was denied bail at an initial court appearance Saturday and is being held in the Clarke County Jail.

Jason Getz/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution via ZUMA Press Wire

The NYPD's Tuesday release came in response to a statement from ICE on Sunday that said Ibarra was arrested by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on Sept. 8, 2022, “after unlawfully entering the United States.” States near El Paso, Texas.”

“He was paroled and released for further processing,” ICE said. “On September 14, 2023, [Jose] “Ibarra was arrested by the New York Police Department and charged with injury to a child under 17 and a motor vehicle license violation,” the statement continued.

“He was released by the NYPD before a prison sentence could be issued. On February 23, 2024, ERO [Enforcement and Removal Operations] Atlanta encountered Ibarra after he was arrested by University of Georgia police and charged with murder and other crimes. ERO Atlanta housed an inmate.

An ICE spokesman remained on record Tuesday but could not explain the dispute. ICE initially said Ibarra was arrested by the NYPD and released before federal officials could request his detention.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp addressed the Athens-Clarke Chamber of Commerce on Monday and called Riley's death “preventable.”

Augusta University

“First, [the family is] devastated. You are heartbroken. Marty and I can both understand. Our daughters study and train at the University of Georgia [as Laken Riley]Kemp said. “They're as angry as I am that this happened. “It was preventable because we just have a nightmare in this country with mass migration and then we have people here illegally violating our laws and not telling anyone and not reporting it to us .”

The 22-year-old nursing student was found on Thursday in a wooded area on campus with “visible injuries,” the university said. According to University of Georgia Police Chief Jeffrey Clark, she died of blunt force trauma.

Police do not believe he knew the victim and have no motive, the chief said.

“I think this was a crime of opportunity where he saw a person and bad things happened,” Clark said.

ABC News' Aaron Katersky and Quinn Owen contributed to this report.