“They used to stop for police and now it’s an all-out run,” George West Police Chief Rey Garcia said. “They are going to be in stolen vehicles, crashing through fences, gates, and causing accidents. Ninety percent of cases in human smuggling are going to involve property damage or injury.”
GWPD officer Meakins was on patrol when he observed a Ford U-Haul cargo truck exceeding the speed limit by 20 mph while heading eastbound on Highway 59 near George West. When Meakins attempted to pull over the speeding U-Haul it continued east at 85 mph in the rain until it reached the turnaround near the Texas Department of Transportation’s office.
The U-Haul made three loops up and down Highway 59 between the railroad overpass and the turnaround neat TxDOT with GWPD.
At one point the U-Haul pulled over, but it took off again and eventually went to Interstate 37. Attempts to stop the truck with tire spikes were unsuccessful because they were set up too late, according to Garcia.
The pursuit headed south on County Road 356 where it intersects with Hailey Ranch Road. Garcia said the truck didn’t make the T-intersection and crashed through the iron gate on Brian Bracht’s ranch. Garcia said Bracht estimated there was between $12,000 and $18,000 in damage done to the property.
Garcia said they went about 100-150 yards into the brush and Meakins followed as far as he could in the police car. Garcia also said that officer Lee secured the truck but the driver escaped through the passenger side door because the driver’s side was “bashed in” and unable to be opened.
The U-Haul back door was reported to be trapped shut due to the brush. According to Garcia, the officers heard voices inside and found 18 illegal immigrants.
“When they opened the box truck they could see the sweat inside,” Garcia said.
According to the GWPD report, there were 12 Hondurans, three Guatemalans, two from El Salvador and one from Mexico. Garcia said the youngest was born in 1995 and the oldest was born in 1963.
“I imagine they walked until they got to the border until they got their coyotes going,” Garcia said.
No serious injuries were reported, but two of the men were taken to the hospital in Beeville for back injuries. Garcia said they were released shortly afterward.
“I guess with all the roller coaster ride, he was at the back end and ended up at the front end of the box,” Garcia said.
Border Patrol took custody of the men for processing before sending them back to their home countries. Garcia said illegal immigrants essentially get a “do not trespass warning” and are documented for easier identification if they attempt to re-enter the United States.
Garcia said instances such as this are challenging for small police departments and a safety concern for the community. With only two officers on duty at night, that meant one was supervising the group of illegal immigrants until border patrol arrived. Garcia said it would have been easy for the 18 men to overpower the single officer and leave to steal another car or break into a house.
Garcia said the U-Haul was reported stolen but the location of the theft and its origin was not shared with GWPD. The U-Haul had Arizona license plates, but that doesn’t indicate the origin of the theft.
“If they had eluded officers and abandoned the truck, someone would have been deceased,” Garcia said.