Truck Driver in Massive Fatal I-70 Crash: "This is Not Just What They Are Doing"

A booking photo of Rogel Aguilera-Mederos.
A booking photo of Rogel Aguilera-Mederos. Lakewood Police Department
Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos , the 23-year-old truck driver from Houston accused of causing a massive crash on Interstate 70 near the Colorado Mills Parkway exit that killed casino executive Stan Politano and three others on April 25, has made his first public comments since the tragedy, as his friends and family engage in multiple fundraising efforts to help with his defense.

His words appear on the Facebook page of his wife, Nailan Gonzalez. Among Aguilera-Mederos's remarks that she quotes: "God is with me. This is not just what they are doing to me."

Aguilera-Mederos made his first court appearance on Saturday, April 27, before District Judge Chris Zenisek. He was advised of his rights and informed that there was probable cause for his arrest.

The charges: four counts of vehicular homicide and two counts of vehicular assault.

The crash site. - DENVER7 VIA YOUTUBE
The crash site.
Denver7 via YouTube
The 1st Judicial District DA's office, which covers Jefferson and Gilpin counties, asked for a $500,000 cash bond for Aguilera-Mederos "considering the extent of the damage, that Mr. Aguilera has no ties to Colorado and is in the U.S. on a green card, and that Mr. Aguilera could potentially face a significant prison sentence."

After considering this request, Judge Zenisek set bond at $400,000 cash/surety and affixed the conditions that Aguilera-Mederos not drive upon release and surrender his passport.

According to court documents, Aguilera-Mederos, a Cuban by birth who's been in the United States legally for several years, passed by a runaway truck ramp going about 85 miles per hour, and when he saw traffic stopped ahead, he tried to move his vehicle onto the interstate's shoulder, only to realize that another semi was already there. Witnesses told investigators that the expression on his face around the time of impact was wide-eyed and terrified.

After the pile-up, which involved 28 vehicles, caused at least ten injuries in addition to the four fatalities and led to a closure of I-70 in both directions until the next day, Aguilera-Mederos insisted to authorities that his brakes had failed — and Fox31 subsequently reported that the company for which he drove had a history of brake issues on its vehicles. Aliet Diaz, a friend who visited Aguilera-Mederos in jail, told the station that "he said, 'I'm innocent. I will be here and I will be fighting through everything...because I know I'm innocent."

click to enlarge The message over another mug shot of Aguilera-Mederos translates: "Let's make a difference. Let's help this boy to get ahead." - JEFFERSON COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE VIA FACEBOOK
The message over another mug shot of Aguilera-Mederos translates: "Let's make a difference. Let's help this boy to get ahead."
Jefferson County Sheriff's Office via Facebook
This theme is also struck by a GoFundMe page that so far has raised more than $1,200 and a separate Facebook fundraiser that's exceeded $6,400 in donations. (Online screen captures that show another Facebook page having raised more than $123,000 don't appear to be genuine.)

For her part, Gonzalez has shared images of Aguilera-Mederos in custody appended with assorted comments. One shot of him in court includes the line (in English) "Lakewood Police Department says no alcohol or drugs were involved, but Aguilera-Mederos had no control over his truck," above a Spanish plea for donations on his behalf.

Following an April 29 visit to the Jefferson County Jail to visit  Aguilera-Mederos, Gonzalez, writing in Spanish (we've translated), noted: "I did not see him personally — only through a system that they have there in the jail. He asked me to make this post in his name, saying, 'Mommy, please post thanking everyone. Unfortunately, I cannot do it. God is with me. This is not just what they are doing to me, but I never thought I would have the world out there supporting me. I never imagined that there were so many people standing by me.'"

He added compliments for his lawyers and gratitude toward those who believe he isn't guilty of the crimes for which he's been accused. "I am more than grateful," Gonzalez writes on his behalf. "I don't get tired of repeating it."

The next court appearance for Aguilera-Mederos is scheduled for Friday, May 3.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts