OMAHA — A Croatian national wanted for fleeing a murder sentence in his native country was deported on Monday by officers with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO).
After being flown to New York City from Omaha, Drazen Demirovic, 39, was flown to Zagreb, Croatia, on a commercial flight. Upon his arrival in Croatia, ICE ERO officers transferred him to the custody of Croatian law enforcement authorities.
Demirovic had been convicted of murder in the County Court at Vukovar, Croatia, on May 29, 2003, and was sentenced to 13 years prison. The murder occurred in Vukovar in the mid-1990s. Demirovic and another individual were attempting to steal a goat when the animal's owner interrupted the theft and tried to run the pair off while brandishing an axe. During the confrontation Demirovic shot and killed the goat's owner with an AK-47 and was arrested for the crime.
Croatian court documents state that he admitted committing the murder and gave a confession. Demirovic spent a year in jail in Serbia in the late 1990s for this offense while awaiting trial. However, he fled the country when he was released prior to his court date. It is unclear why he was released from custody before his court appearance. The court convicted him in his absence based on his confession.
INTERPOL (the International Criminal Police Organization) published a warrant on Demirovic on May 10, 2005 for a Fugitive Wanted to Serve a Sentence. Demirovic was apprehended on Sept. 9, 2009 without incident at his residence in Omaha by members of the local ICE ERO Fugitive Operations Team, ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the U.S. Marshals Service.
Records show that Demirovic entered the United States in 2002 in New York as a refugee, and adjusted to become a U.S. permanent resident in 2005. He has remained in ICE custody since his September 2009 arrest.
After his arrest, Demirovic was placed in deportation proceedings. On April 6, 2011 a federal immigration judge rescinded his permanent resident status and ordered his deportation. Demirovic did not appeal the judge's decision, and was deported on July 18 by Omaha ICE ERO officers.
"This removal allows Croatian authorities to proceed with carrying out the court's sentence for a crime committed in their country," said Scott Baniecke, field officer director for ICE ERO in St. Paul, Minn. "We are resolute in our commitment to identify, arrest and remove anyone who falsely believes they can escape legal issues in their home country by hiding in ours."
The ICE ERO Fugitive Operations Team has responsibility for apprehending foreign fugitive aliens. INTERPOL, the world's largest international police organization with 188 member countries, facilitates international police cooperation.