VON ORMY, Texas – A stolen tractor-trailer out of Laredo with a dozen migrants crammed inside the cab was a first for the Von Ormy Police Department, said Chief Lionel Perez Jr.
“I was more surprised that it actually was an 18-wheeler with that amount,” Perez said.
Since Von Ormy is on I-35 just south of San Antonio, Perez said his small department typically handles two to five human smuggling encounters a month involving vehicles with fewer migrants coming up from the border.
Perez said when he was told about the incident Wednesday night, he immediately thought of the nation’s worst human smuggling tragedy in June of last year on Quintana Road.
He said his first question was, “Is everybody okay?”
When he was assured they were in good condition and being checked out by first responders, Perez said, “That was a big sigh of relief for me.”
He said they were taken into custody by the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office, along with the 24-year-old suspect, identified as Anthony Sanchez.
Sanchez is facing several state charges, including 12 counts of smuggling of persons, unlawful carrying of a weapon and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.
Perez said one of his officers, Corporal Travis Brackeen, a six-year veteran, had spotted the tractor-trailer heading north on I-35, ran the license plate and attempted to pull it over when it came back as stolen.
“He’s a go-getter,” Perez said. “I wasn’t surprised that he was the one that made the stop.”
Perez said there was no high-speed chase -- it just took a couple of miles to finally pull over the 18-wheeler.
He said the driver was unarmed, but there was a gun in the cab of the truck.
Perez said the city of Von Ormy has been supportive of his efforts to make sure his small department of full-time officers and volunteers is well-trained for situations like the one Wednesday night.
He said his department also monitors law enforcement intelligence for the latest on this type of illegal activity.
Perez said, “We’re always constantly vigilant to the south.”