Human smuggler refuses to surrender

Editor, County Press - Two Refugio Police Department officers fired shots into the radiator and tires of a stolen pickup last Friday to disable the vehicle before it entered a school zone less than one block away as students were set to be released for lunch.
The pickup was damaged, but not enough to keep the human smuggler from traveling another four blocks to a field by the railroad tracks where the truck’s tire rims sank into the ground. Approximately 24-30 illegal immigrants from Nicaragua bailed out and ran into the brush.
Eight of the immigrants were apprehended immediately. Later that night, four men turned themselves in to Officer Norma Smith, who said she found them sitting on a porch on Barefield Street.
“They asked for water,� Smith said.
The men were 43, 42, 35 and 30, all from Nicaragua. The men told Smith that four men and four women remained hidden in the brush along with youths, 12 and 14 years old.
The incident began as a be-on-the-lookout, or BOLO, for a brown Ford F-250 four-door pickup which was dispatched to officers in the county at 11:19 a.m. The report from San Patricio County was generated by a truck driver who saw a female that appeared to be slumped over in the vehicle and did not appear to be sleeping. The woman was believed to be a victim of kidnapping or a possible hostage.
“A welfare check quickly escalated to a stolen vehicle with an armed and dangerous driver transporting illegals,� Police Chief Chris Brock said.
At 11:44 a.m., Detective Fernando Garcia spotted the truck traveling down U.S. 77 in Refugio, noting that the vehicle was not brown, as reported, but green. A license check revealed the truck was stolen out of Houston with firearms inside and its occupants should be considered armed and dangerous.
When the vehicle stopped for the traffic light at Jeter Street and U.S. 77, Garcia ordered that a stop be executed. Lt. Richmond Carpenter positioned his unit in front of the vehicle, while Garcia stopped his vehicle behind the truck and Officer Dean Ochoa blocked the side street.
“I had eye contact with the driver who at the time made a gesture with the vehicle as if he intended to make front-to-front contact,� Carpenter reported.
With all the lights activated on the patrol units, the driver shook his head from side to side at Carpenter, reversed the vehicle toward Garcia’s vehicle and then floored the gas pedal toward Carpenter who fired three shots into the radiator and one into a back tire. Garcia also fired a shot into one of the tires.
The suspect vehicle made a right-hand turn onto East Jeter and traveled three blocks to the railroad tracks where the driver ditched the truck and the immigrants ran into the brush.
“Wardens from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice offered their bloodhounds and located eight of the illegals about 100 yards from where they bailed out,� Brock said.
The tracking dogs were brought in from prisons in Beeville and Cuero and wardens from both institutions joined in the search as Reserve Officer Joe Braman launched his private helicopter.
The driver remains at large. Brock said the illegal immigrants paid the man $6,000.
“Smuggling humans is starting to be more profitable than drug trafficking,� Brock said. “We’re beginning to see some very dangerous people and we are concerned as is the Border Patrol.�
The police chief said the videos have been reviewed and all the officers have been cleared of any wrongdoing.
“They did an excellent job of protecting themselves and the public,� he added.