Migrant dies following a crash after suspected smuggling load driver fails to stop for law enforcement

Contributed File Photo

Contributed Article/Courtesy U.S. Customs and Border Protection

WILLCOX – On Feb. 11, at approximately 5 p.m., Border Patrol agents assigned to the Willcox Station observed a red 2003 Toyota Corolla depart the Highway 191 Checkpoint, located approximately 29 miles north of Douglas, Arizona, without being inspected. A Douglas Station agent, also working at the checkpoint, activated the emergency equipment on his marked Border Patrol unit and initiated a pursuit of the Corolla. Based on the radio traffic, the pursuit was ordered terminated by a Douglas Station supervisor after two minutes and 24 seconds due to the high rate of speed. The Corolla continued northbound on highway 191 toward Interstate 10.

 A Willcox Station Border Patrol agent assisting the Arizona Department of Public Safety with a smuggling-related traffic scene near mile marker 311 on I-10, notified Arizona DPS of the failure to yield and the possibility the vehicle was headed in their direction. The agent left this scene and drove eastbound on I-10 to try and locate the Corolla.

The Border Patrol agent observed a red Corolla pass his location in the westbound lanes of I-10 followed by a Cochise County Sheriff’s Office vehicle at approximately 5:30 p.m. The agent turned around in the median but was unable to immediately gain entry onto I-10 due to traffic. The agent observed the Sheriff’s Office vehicle activate its emergency equipment to initiate a traffic stop of the Corolla. The Corolla accelerated and began driving away from the Sheriff’s Office vehicle. The agent gained access to I-10 and drove approximately one-half mile behind the Sheriff’s Office vehicle with emergency lights activated. Arizona DPS troopers, stationed near the traffic stop at mile marker 311, deployed a vehicle immobilization device to stop the Corolla. The Corolla attempted to evade the immobilization device and struck the rear trailer of a semi-truck. The collision caused the Corolla to spin and strike the rear compartment area of the semi-truck.

Sheriff’s Office deputies and Arizona DPS troopers located four undocumented migrants, in varying degrees of physical distress due to the collision, inside the passenger compartment and trunk of the  Corolla. An emergency medical service Life Flight was requested and flew three of the undocumented migrants to Banner Main Hospital in Tucson for emergency care while the fourth undocumented migrant was transported to Benson Hospital for evaluation and treatment. The driver of the Corolla was identified as a United States citizen and arrested by the Sheriff’s Office. Border Patrol agents responded to both hospitals and established a hospital watch on the injured undocumented migrants.

One of the injured undocumented migrants transported to Banner Main Hospital, a citizen of Mexico, suffered severe trauma and was unresponsive. The undocumented migrant remained hospitalized after U.S. Customs and Border Protection processed and released the migrant from CBP custody on Feb. 15. Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office notified CBP personnel the undocumented migrant died on Feb. 24 while being treated at Banner Main Hospital.

This incident is under investigation by CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility.  The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General was also notified.