Driver of Tractor Trailer Where Over 50 Died Tried To Disguise Himself As Survivor
The driver of the tractor trailer where 50 dead migrants were discovered attempted to evade arrest by disguising himself as one of the survivors.
Identified as Homero Zamorano Jr., 45, he is one of four people currently in police custody for their involvement in the smuggling attempt. Per the Department of Justice, he has been charged with alien smuggling resulting in death.
Zamorano reportedly hid in some nearby bushes, according to People, before attempting to disguise himself as one of the survivors. The driver was ultimately identified after Homeland Security Investigations received surveillance footage of Zamorano at a checkpoint from the Laredo Sector Border Patrol.
The footage shows Zamorano, who was high on meth when he was arrested, smiled at the surveillance camera at around 2:50 p.m., roughly three hours away from where the big rig would later be found on the side of the road. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador released the photo to the public at a press conference on Wednesday, reports Fox News.
In addition to Zamorano, a man named Christian Martinez, 28, has also been taken into police custody. Investigations have revealed that Zamorano and Martinez discussed their smuggling attempt beforehand, and both men could face the death penalty if convicted.
Two other men — Juan Claudio D’Luna-Mendez, 23, and Juan Francisco D’Luna-Bilbao, 48 — were also arrested after authorities discovered the registration for the tractor trailer linked back to an address in San Antonio. Authorities staked out the property and observed D’Luna-Mendez and D’Luna-Bilbao, both of them Mexican nationals who were in the country illegally after overstaying their B-2 visas.
After leaving in separate vehicles, both men were pulled over. A handgun was discovered in D’Luna-Bilbao’s vehicle, and authorities also discovered multiple firearms at the residence. Both men were hit with a weapons charge and face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
However, it is unclear to what extent these men participated in the smuggling event that left more than 50 migrants dead. Although the truck was registered in Alamo, Texas, the license plates were fake, as were the logos with identifying information.
AP reports that the death toll has risen to 53 after a handful of survivors died in the hospital, from a total of 67 passengers. So far, only 37 people have been identified — 27 from Mexico, 14 from Honduras, seven from Guatemala and two from El Salvador.
Authorities say they’ve had trouble identifying everyone as many of the migrants traveled with no identification — and in one case, a stolen ID — and have no way to get in touch with family members who don’t have phone or internet access.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has used the mass casualty event as an opportunity to slam the Biden administration over its “deadly open border policy.” Abbott said on Wednesday that he would be organizing additional checkpoints with Texas State Troopers, per Fox News.
In a statement released Wednesday, Abbott said: “President Biden needs to focus on addressing the humanitarian crisis his reckless leadership has created at the border, instead of attacking the jobs of hardworking Texans and oil production in the Permian Basin,” referencing the Biden administration’s work with the EPA to monitor ozone standards at the country’s most productive oil shale reserve, per the Wall Street Journal.
He continued, “The Lone Star State will not sit idly by as the federal government chooses to ignore the historic number of illegal crossings, human smuggling and drug trafficking of deadly fentanyl from Mexico into the United States. Our government has no greater responsibility than to provide public safety to its citizens.” Border crossings have reached a record high this year, as has the influx of fentanyl into the United States.
He ended by saying, “Until President Biden decides to uphold immigration laws passed by Congress, the State of Texas will continue utilizing every tool available to secure the border and keep Texans — and Americans — safe.”