At times, Patrolman Jared Moore said, vehicles involved in the chase topped 100 miles per hour as they sped from East Houston Street to the other side of Berclair.
Moore said it was about 7:30 a.m. when he spotted a 1999 Toyota Four Runner going east on Houston Street.
He said the back of the vehicle was riding low, as if the vehicle were carrying a lot of extra weight.
Then he noticed a 2005 Ford F-250 following the Toyota and a Nissan Maxima in between the two other vehicles.
Moore said the drivers of the vehicles seemed suspicious right off when they started acting nervously and avoiding eye contact.
Moore said Deputy Ryan Treviño of the Bee County Sheriff’s Office fell in behind him, and when one of the vehicles turned into an apartment complex, Treviño followed.
By that time, two Texas Highway Patrol troopers, Marvin Baker and Andrew Tegtmeyer, had joined in the procession.
When the Ford pickup reached the overpass at the U.S. Highway 181 Bypass, the driver failed to stop before he had crossed the white line.
That gave Moore a reason to make a traffic stop. He turned on his overhead emergency lights and began following the vehicle east on U.S. 59.
The Ford did slow down, and at first Moore thought the driver was about to pull into the parking lot at the Belmont Inn.
But instead of turning, the driver of the vehicle floored the truck and started what turned out to be a harrowing, high-speed chase.
Moore said that at one point Trooper Baker had managed to get ahead of the procession, and he began setting up spike strips in hopes of flattening the tires on the fleeing pickup.
Moore fell back to avoid running into the spike strips. But the driver of the Ford managed to swerve to the left and avoid the spikes.
The chase continued at high speeds with Moore in front behind the pickup and the troopers following.
After the vehicles sped through Berclair, Treviño had rejoined the chase, and he was radioing the Goliad County Sheriff’s Office when the pickup slowed down and veered off to the right into the brush.
Moore said he also slowed down in an effort to stay with the Ford, and he saw the vehicle crash through two fences before it came to a stop.
Moore stopped his patrol car on a ranch road and started approaching the pickup on foot.
Officers in the chase said they noticed a number of passengers, possibly as many as 10, flee into the brush.
Troopers managed to catch three young women, ages 19, 22 and 23, and take them into custody.
The vehicle was taken back to Beeville and impounded at the city’s equipment yard.
Border Patrol agents were contacted, and they took the three women into custody to return them to Mexico.
The chase was Moore’s second such incident since he completed border interdiction training earlier this year.
The first chase ended after the suspected vehicle crashed through a fence on Ellis Road east of town, and the pickup continued about 200 yards through extremely heavy brush before coming to a stop.
Human traffickers and their cargoes usually are hard to catch after they have fled their vehicles because they hide in heavy brush.
Officers usually avoid trying to follow smugglers into heavy brush because they have no idea if the culprits are armed.
The smugglers routinely contact chase vehicles and arrange to be picked up after law enforcement officers have returned to their regular duties.
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.