Who Was Sarah Root? Donald Trump's RNC Speech Told Her Harrowing Story

In his highly anticipated speech at the Republican National Convention Thursday night, Donald Trump discussed the death of Sarah Root before diving into issues of illegal immigration, poverty, and domestic and overseas terrorism. Root was a 21-year-old Nebraska native, who was killed in a vehicular accident earlier this year. Who was Sarah Root, and why would Trump mention her during the biggest speech of his fledgling political career?

According to NBC Omaha, Root was killed in January 2016 after a vehicle slammed into the back of her SUV, which was stopped near an intersection late at night. The driver of the vehicle that rear-ended Root was 19-year-old Eswin Mejia, an undocumented citizen who came to America from Honduras as a teenager and was allowed to remain in Omaha, which is a so-called sanctuary city.

Now, Trump is using Root to highlight his immigration platform, which includes strict crackdowns on undocumented citizens, border patrol, and immigration security services. Trump said on Thursday night:

I've met Sarah's beautiful family. But to this administration, their amazing daughter was just one more American life that wasn't worth protecting. One more child to sacrifice on the altar of open borders.

Trump accused Mejia, who he dubbed a "border-crosser," of ending "the life of an innocent young girl." Authorities said Mejia's blood alcohol content was four times the legal limit, NBC Omaha reported. It's believed that Mejia crashed his car into Root's SUV during a street racing incident.

Omaha authorities charged Mejia with motor vehicle homicide, and he faced up to 20 years in prison if convicted. However, the 19-year-old fled Nebraska, and possibly the country, following the fatal crash. Omaha police issued a warrant for Mejia in early February after he stopped complying with the terms of his bail.

In April, several news outlets, including Fox News, reported that Mejia returned to his native Honduras. Now, Root's family and friends have been calling for justice in the wake of her tragic death.

Trump echoed that call Thursday night. "[Root] was 21 years old, and was killed the day after graduating from college with a 4.0 grade point average," Trump said. "Her killer was then released a second time, and he is now a fugitive from the law."

Trump's heart-tugging words about Root were reminiscent of his interest in the slaying of Kate Steinle, the 32-year-old woman who was killed by a stray bullet at a San Francisco pier in July 2015. Steinle's killer was an undocumented citizen who had been deported five times by the federal government, but was remaining in San Francisco, which is also a sanctuary city. Trump capitalized on Steinle's death to advocate for his draconian anti-immigration platform last summer; now, it seems, he has moved onto Sarah Root and her grieving family.