Sixteen people – most of whom were trying to enter the US without permission – were injured when their pickup truck crashed while being chased at high speeds by Texas Polizia Stradale, according to authorities.
Two of those hurt were critically wounded and flown to hospitals in San Antonio by helicopter, said the sheriff of Medina county, Randy Brown, whose deputies pursued the truck at the center of the wreck.
A steadily growing number of law enforcement agencies across the US have prohibited their officers from chasing fleeing vehicle drivers who are not suspected of violent crimes.
Brown on Saturday said his office largely defers to deputies’ judgments about whom to chase and for how long, weighing a number of factors such as weather conditions and volume of traffic.
The crash also comes after US authorities in March reported arresting 210,000 migrants attempting to cross the southern border without permission, the highest monthly total in two decades.
That report fueled calls, externally and within his own Democratic party, for Joe Biden to keep in place Covid-related restrictions for undocumented people arriving at the US border with Mexico, which the president’s administration has been wanting to lift.
Brown said his deputies tried to stop a black Chevy pickup being driven by an American citizen and carrying 15 undocumented immigrants about 8 am local time in Medina, whose county seat is about 110 miles from the border.
The driver sped off, and deputies pursued the vehicle into neighboring Bexar county, Brown said. The truck flipped over near the intersection of Kinney Road and Interstate 35, and first responders treated a total of 16 people who were in the vehicle and injured, Brown added.
Those treated included a passenger who bailed from the truck during the chase as well as the driver, who had a gun hidden under his lap, Brown said.
Brown didn’t discuss any additional details about the driver. Citing Brown’s office, a local reporter described the driver as “a human smuggler”.
People crossing the US southern border without permission often hire help from smugglers who Spanish-speakers colloquially refer to as “coyotes”.
Brown said he could not immediately confirm where the chase started, the distance it covered, or the speeds reached by the vehicles involved in the pursuit.
The Medina county seat, a community named Hondo, is about a 38-mile drive from the scene of the crash for motorists sticking to major routes, according to information online.