Judge to decide if murder case of immigrant in deputy's death can proceed

Eric Oliver was hit, killed by SUV while chasing Francisco Portillo-Fuentes

By Allyson Henning - Reporter, Steve Patrick - News4Jax digital managing editor

YULEE, Fla. - A daylong hearing on a motion asking that charges against an immigrant illegally in the country from El Salvador be dropped ended with the judge taking the request under advisement.

Francisco Portillo-Fuentes faces murder and manslaughter charges resulting from the death of Deputy Eric Oliver, who was hit and killed by a car in November 2016 while chasing after Portillo-Fuentes across A1A in Yulee. Defense attorneys claim that a Border Patrol agent involved in the case lied, that Oliver flouted traffic laws and that the driver who struck Oliver was driving carelessly.

According to the defense, the Border Patrol agent told a grand jury he saw the group of men acting nervous and suspiciously when they saw two Nassau County deputies at a Yulee Gate gas station. Surveillance video from that gas station played during Wednesday's hearing shows some of the interactions between the Border Patrol agent and six men at a gas pump, including Portillo-Fuentes.

The video played in court shows the deputies were not there when the agent said they were.

The defense says the men were doing nothing wrong when the Border Patrol agent approached them. The state argues that the agent testified it was a consensual encounter which changed when three of the men admitted to being in the country illegally. That’s when Portillo-Fuentes ran.

Defense Attorney Nicole Jamieson: "At the time Mr. Portillo-Fuentes exited that truck, you had no information that he had committed a crime because you’ve never spoken to him, right?" 
U.S. Border Patrol Agent James Amorelli: "I had suspected he was in the country illegally."
Jamieson: "And that was based on the color of his skin, right?"
Amorelli: "Absolutely not."

The judge set the next hearing in the case for Aug. 1.

Throughout the hearing, Sheriff Bill Leeper and several of his deputies were in the courtroom.

Portillo-Fuentes was found guilty of illegal re-entry after his arrest for running from law enforcement in this incident. He was sentenced to serve two years in federal prison. When he is released, he is scheduled to be deported for a third time.

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