Suspect accused of killing WSP trooper held on $1 million bail

A man accused of hitting and killing a Washington State trooper on I-5 this weekend faced a judge for the first time.

This, two days after he allegedly plowed into the trooper, killing him instantly.

It was a standing-room-only crowd in a Snohomish County courtroom today, filled with Washington State Troopers.

It’s the first time we got a glimpse of the 32-year-old Lynnwood man accused of killing Trooper Christopher Gadd.

Gadd was hit Saturday on southbound I-5 near 136th Street North in Marysville.

It is unusual to see so many troopers at a bail hearing, but this was no ordinary court hearing.

It can be said it is a reflection of the effect of the death of Trooper Christopher Gadd, an effect being felt by an entire community.

It was a most unusual bail hearing.  A phalanx of Washington State Troopers and Snohomish County Sheriff’s deputies filled the courtroom, there to see the man arrested in the death of one of their own.

“Sir, are you Raul Benitez Santana?” asked Snohomish District Court Commissioner Jennifer Millett.  

“Yes,” he replied.

According to court documents, Raul Benitez Santana was behind the wheel of a black SUV early Saturday morning.  Eyewitnesses say he was speeding when he crashed into Trooper Gadd’s patrol car as he sat on the shoulder of I-5 near Marysville, monitoring traffic.  

The force of the crash was so great, that a van collided with the black SUV.

Benitez-Santana admitted that several hours before, he smoked a bowl of marijuana and also drank two beers. By the time investigators got permission to test his blood alcohol level, it was nearly half the legal limit.  Still, he was deemed impaired.

Indeed, the Court commissioner said Benitez Santana has a long history of speeding. In 2012, he was caught driving 11 miles over the speed limit.  Three years later, he was cited for driving too fast for conditions.  Then in 2020, he was clocked at a whopping 49 miles over the speed limit.

Now the 32-year-old Lynnwood man is accused of driving too fast again, this time with deadly consequences.

A Good Samaritan who stopped to help the trooper says Benitez-Santana had raced past him.

“He cannot be on the road,” said Ali Asabi. “He doesn’t care about anybody’s well-being.  He’s definitely a threat to the public and even the police officers.”

The memorial to the trooper has grown so large, that they brought in a bigger tent to accommodate all of the flowers and toys and plants the community is bringing.

And we are still hearing from total strangers deeply affected by the trooper’s death.

The suspect’s parents were in court Monday.  His father said he doesn’t believe his son is being treated fairly.  But he declined to talk on camera.

For now, at least, his son remains in the Snohomish County Jail on $1 million bail.