NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. – After a judge dismissed a charge of felony murder, a man accused in the 2016 death of a Nassau County deputy this week pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter, according to court records.
Francisco Portillo-Fuentes now faces up to 12 years in prison and possible deportation when he is released.
Portillo-Fuentes, an El Salvadorian man who was in the United States illegally, ran from Border Patrol and Nassau County deputies in November 2016 -- a foot pursuit that led to the death of Deputy Eric Oliver.
“Deputy Eric Oliver died in 2016 and though time has passed it still is fresh in our minds and hearts. We are ready for justice to be served and for this to be over. We hope that the judge sentences the maximum allowable. No matter what happens Deputy Oliver will not be back with us and that breaks our hearts,” Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper said Thursday in a statement to News4Jax.
The U.S. Border Patrol said six men in a pickup truck at a Gate gas station in Yulee on Nov. 22, 2016, were investigated by Border Patrol officers. At least three were found to be foreign nationals not authorized to be in the United States. Portillo-Fuentes was in the truck with the men, authorities said.
As agents were arresting the three men and putting them in the Border Patrol vehicle, Portillo-Fuentes ran. Oliver and another deputy followed him. Oliver was struck and killed by an SUV as he ran across A1A.
Portillo-Fuentes was arrested that night at Atlantic Self Storage on Powers Avenue at the end of a manhunt involving the U.S. Marshals Service, the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Highway Patrol.
“I’d like him to know he not only ruined Eric’s daughter’s life, he also ruined a lot of innocent people’s lives,” said Oliver’s father, Doug.
Oliver’s daughter recently turned 11.
“She mentioned the other day that she misses her daddy,” Oliver’s father said. “And she really wanted to talk to him, but he’s not here, but she understands that.”
The father said the family “finally got some closure” and that they’re one step closer to justice.
Court documents show Portillo-Fuentes was living near the Gator Lodge on Philips Highway and was picked up to do day labor work in Nassau County the day of the incident.
Portillo-Fuentes was deported from the United States the first time in 2011 and again sometime after an Aug. 15, 2016, conviction for DUI. He had been arrested in a traffic stop on Philips Highway at 2:15 a.m. May 15, 2016.
After he pleaded guilty to the DUI charge, he was transferred to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. According to federal court documents, he re-entered the United States a second time by wading across the Rio Grande River from Mexico to Laredo, Texas.
In the case involving Oliver, a judge ordered the charges of second-degree felony murder and escape to be dismissed, finding that Portillo-Fuentes was never in actual custody the morning he ran from deputies and a Border Patrol agent.
The judge also denied the motion to dismiss the charges of manslaughter and resisting police, saying Portillo-Fuentes’ decision to run across heavy traffic on A1A during rush hour contributed to Oliver’s death.