A high-speed chase involving an 18-wheeler led police through five Texas counties and the city of San Antonio this morning. The chase, which started shortly after 3:00 a.m., lasted about three hours. Speeds reached at least 90 mph according to Department of Public Safety officials.
The chase began when the truck ran through a border checkpoint in Freer, Tex.. The driver had been referred to a secondary inspection at the checkpoint after a K-9 unit alerted agents to possible humans or narcotics concealed inside the trailer. The driver did not go to the second inspection lane, instead racing away.
Officers chased the semi through McMullen, Duval, Comal, Bexar and Atascosa counties. During the high-speed chase through the five Texas Counties the driver of the 18-wheeler attempted to run police officers off the highway and traveled at high rates of speed, at some times exceeding 90 mph. Officers used spike strips and fired their weapons at the tires of the truck in an attempt to stop it. Eventually they were successful in flattening the tires, but the 18-wheeler continued on at high speeds on Interstate 35, driving on the rims . The truck finally stopped in Kyle, Tex., just north of San Marcos and about 160 miles from Freer.
Once the truck was stopped police found nine people hiding inside. All have been detained and taken to the ICE Detention Center in La Salle County. Authorities say that seven of them were in the country illegally. The driver of the 18-wheeler, 48-year-old Lorance Jones Jr., was arrested and is facing federal charges of transporting illegal immigrants, as well as state charges of felony evading arrest, felony assault on a peace officer and reckless driving.
A similar incident last Friday morning involving a pickup truck and a long-distance, high-speed chase resulted in the arrest of 11 people. The pickup led police 100 miles through Bexar County, Texas, ending in San Antonio. The chase began in Encinal, Tex., just north of Laredo, one of the Texas cities that straddles the U.S. and Mexico borders, after U.S. Border Patrol agents tried to stop a pickup truck they believed was carrying undocumented immigrants. After a 95 mph chase the truck was stopped and the driver, a 17-year-old girl, arrested. Ten other people were detained, but five others ran from the truck and fled on foot. The driver, who faces federal human smuggling charges, said that she was forced to drive the truck by a coyote, who authorities believe may be one of the people who escaped.
According to Texas State Senator Dan Patrick, more people are apprehended every week crossing the border illegally than are born in the state each week. Patrick says that between 6,000 and 10,000 illegal immigrants, many of whom are children, per week are caught, and that it only about one in five who cross the border. Federal officials expect at least 150,000 illegal immigrant children to be caught next year.
Law enforcement officers are on high alert today because of the 9/11 anniversary. Emmett Shelton, McMullen County Sheriff, says they were unsure why the 18-wheeler did not stop at the check point but it raised major concerns. The Texas high-speed chase ended at around 6:45 a.m. after a cooperative effort between Texas state police and Border Patrol officers.
By Beth A. Balen