Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald: Authorities detained 16 UDAs after two separate police chases hours apart on April 6.
By Jon Johnson
GRAHAM COUNTY – Authorities apprehended two separate groups of illegal immigrants within hours during two chases on the evening of April 6.
The first incident began in Graham County at about 6:30 p.m. when County Dispatch aired a BOLO alert for a silver Nissan Sentra northbound on Highway 191 from Interstate-10. Shortly afterward, Graham County deputies saw a northbound Nissan Sentra on Highway 191 being followed by an Arizona Department of Public Safety trooper.
As the Sentra neared Safford, a deputy attempted to initiate a traffic stop but the vehicle failed to yield and instead accelerated to speeds in excess of 100 mph as it recklessly weaved in and out of traffic and passed in no-passing zones at roughly twice the speed limit. A second deputy joined the pursuit as the Sentra headed into the city.
Deputies were then advised to terminate their pursuit as the suspect vehicle turned east onto Main Street. However, shortly afterward County Dispatch received multiple calls regarding subjects running from a vehicle off E. 7th Street.
Safford officers were on the scene, however, and collared four subjects in the area of 8th Street and Valley Avenue, with a fifth subject in custody nearby. In total, eight UDAs were apprehended and held at the jail until released to the custody of the Border Patrol.
Later that same night at about 11:22 p.m., a Safford officer was parked at the intersection of U.S. Highway 191 and U.S. Highway 70 when he noticed a blue Ford Escape with several occupants turn onto Highway 70 westbound.
When the officer attempted to conduct a traffic stop for moving violations, the Ford appeared to comply and slowed down and pulled into the right land and then into the Mt. Graham Plaza just prior to the intersection with 20th Avenue.
However, just as the Ford began to drive behind the Sodalicious store, it accelerated at a high rate of speed northbound through the back of the parking lot, according to a Safford officer’s report.
The Ford then drove over a ditch and into a farm field. Six occupants fled the vehicle while two stayed in the SUV. A total of eight adult UDAs (seven males and one female) were apprehended and released into the custody of the Border Patrol.
U.S. Highway 191 and U.S. Highway 70 are utilized by human smugglers to ferry UDAs from the border to the Phoenix area while avoiding using Interstate 10. Law enforcement has seen an increased number of such instances in the past month.