A suspicious truck driver in Texas with the deaths of migrants was on the meth: Lawmakers
Police in San Antonio found Homer Zamoran Jr., a Texas native hiding in the bushes near an abandoned trailer, on Monday, according to documents filed in federal court on Thursday. 53 migrants lost their lives, making it the deadliest case of human trafficking in United States history.
U.S. Deputy Henry Cuellar, a Democrat whose district includes eastern San Antonio, told Reuters on Thursday that Zamorano had methamphetamine, a powerful synthetic drug, in his system.
Cuellar said he had been informed of the matter by the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), but did not know how the authorities had made the decision. A CBP spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters separately that Zamorano had methamphetamine in his system.
Reuters was not immediately able to independently confirm accounts of alleged drug use.
Zamorano, 45, stood at a federal court in San Antonio on Thursday, where allegations of human trafficking were read against him. If convicted, he faces the maximum penalty of life or death and a fine of up to $ 250,000, they told him.
He was accompanied by the Ombudsman, Jose Gonzalez-Falla, who declined to comment on the case. U.S. Judge Elizabeth Chestney said Zamorano would be held in custody until his next hearing, on July 6.
Officials described finding a half-open trailer door with bodies stacked inside that were hot to the touch. Police found other victims in a nearby bush, some dead. They found Zamoran hiding near the victims and escorted him to a local hospital for a medical examination, prosecutors said. Mexican officials said he tried to pretend to be one of the survivors.
‘WHERE ARE YOU?’
The truck was transporting migrants from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador and was found in an abandoned industrial area near a highway on the edge of the US-Mexico border.
Temperatures in the area that day climbed to 103 Fahrenheit (39.4 Celsius), and authorities called to the scene found no water supplies or signs of working air conditioning inside the truck trailer.
The applicants claim that Zamorano conspired with Christian Martinez, (28) who was also charged with the crime of trafficking in human beings. On Monday, Martinez sent a photograph of a truck manifesto to Zamoran, who replied, “I’m going to the same place,” a federal investigator wrote in a court report on Wednesday.
Martinez wrote repeatedly to Zamoran a few hours later, but received no response, wrote Nestor Canales, Special Agent of the Investigation Division of the Immigration and Customs Office (ICE). Martinez sent messages including “Call me bro” and “Wya bro”, which means “where are you,” Canales wrote.
A confidential ICE and Texas police informant spoke to Martinez after the incident, Canales wrote. Martinez told the informant: “The driver did not know that the air conditioning unit had stopped working and was the reason why the individuals died,” Canales ed.
Reuters was unable to contact Martinez to comment. Martinez, who is in custody, first appeared in court in the eastern district of Texas on Wednesday.
Along with 27 Mexicans, 14 Hondurans, eight Guatemalans and two Salvadorans were among the victims, according to representatives of Mexico and Guatemala. Others, including minors, remain hospitalized.
A Guatemalan Foreign Ministry spokeswoman told Reuters that it was unclear whether two of the Guatemalans identified on Thursday died on Monday or later.
Among the dead were Pascual Melvin Guachiac (13) and Juan Wilmer Tulul (14), both from Guatemala, the local foreign ministry wrote on Twitter.
The two were cousins who left home two weeks ago to escape poverty, said Guachiac’s mother, quoted by the Guatemalan media.
Among the victims was Yazmin Nayarith Bueso, who left Honduras almost a month ago. Her brother said she had been out of work for a year. “She was looking and searching, but she couldn’t find anything and she became desperate,” Alejandro Bueso said on a Honduran television program on Thursday.
Officials believe that the migrants got into a truck on the American side of the border with Mexico.
Surveillance photographs captured a truck passing the border crossing in Lared, Texas on Monday at 2:50 p.m., before the migrant passengers are expected to board.
Cuellar, a Texas lawmaker, said the migrants had probably crossed the border and left for a “hiding place” before being picked up by a trailer and passed through the Encinal checkpoint. They probably went to San Antonio and experienced mechanical problems that left them in the back of the truck without air conditioning or ventilation, Cuellar said.
Another truck with migrants heading for San Antonio avoided the Encinal checkpoint on Thursday, crashed into the back of the trailer after a chase and killed four people on board, according to Mexican authorities.
Two other men suspected of involvement in Monday’s incident, Mexican nationals Juan Claudio D’Luna-Mendez and Francisco D’Luna-Bilbao, were charged with firearms illegally in a U.S. federal court on Tuesday. The pair’s preliminary hearing is scheduled for Friday.
D’Luna-Mendez’s lawyer, Michael McCrum, said his client was a 21-year-old carpenter who had been in the United States since childhood and had “nothing to do with the tragedy.” McCrum said he believes the second accused was his client’s father.
The charging documents in the case stated that the truck’s registration was being tracked at the man’s ress. “They’re arresting anyone they can,” McCrum said.