Deputy constable who came to aid of stranded driver uncovers potential human smuggling operation

March 22, 2013 4:01:38 AM PDT
More than a dozen illegal immigrants are now in federal custody after the truck they were in stalled on the West Beltway last night.

The 16 detainees reportedly were inside the vehicle for nearly 18 hours. The investigation shut down lanes of the West Beltway near Westpark for several hours overnight.

The people inside that truck had a long, stuffy journey without food or water. The search still on for the driver, a suspected coyote.

A Harris County Precinct 5 Constable's Office motorist assistance officer noticed the stalled box truck around 8:30 last night. The officer pulled over to help, and as he got out he noticed something unusual about the truck.

"He got out to assist the person, got on the truck to hook on to it and noticed there were a large number of people in the back of the box truck. He looked up and the driver of the truck took off running on foot," said Terry Allbritton with the Harris Co. Precinct 5 Constable's Office

In the back of the truck, the officer found 16 people -- 15 men and one woman -- all from South and Central America. They told they officer they'd been without food and water for the entire trip.

The officers who responded pooled their money together and bought the folks bread and lunch meat and made them sandwiches. They also provided water to help them rehydrate.

K-9 units and an HPD helicopter searched the area for the driver, but couldn't find him.

"It's our belief the driver was a coyote for the people in the back. We currently don't have anyone we are pursuing charges against hopefully we can catch the suspect," said Allbritton.

The 16 detainees will be taken into ICE custody and likely returned to the countries from which they came.

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