Kerr County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to a call on Friday, February 4, after a motorist allegedly spotted multiple people riding in the bed of a pickup truck on Interstate 10 Eastbound, just outside of Kerrville city limits. Deputies soon intercepted the vehicle near mile marker 505, with the assistance of the Texas Highway Patrol.
According to a KCSO press release, deputies witnessed several individuals attempting to hide underneath blankets, cardboard and other items. Additional law enforcement arrived at the scene to assist and saw two more people smuggled inside a metal toolbox.
A total of seventeen subjects were placed into custody, including the driver, twelve non-citizen adults, and four non-citizen children, ages 8, 12, 14 and 14. All subjects who were being smuggled were released to the U.S. Border Patrol for processing.
The press release states that after interviewing the subjects, it was determined that they had entered the United States through the U.S./Mexico border with the intent of being smuggled deeper into the country.
The driver of the vehicle, 22-year old Misael Jesus Santiago Hernandez, a non-citizen, was arrested for sixteen counts of Human Smuggling and was booked into the Kerr County Jail on $440,000 in bonds. Additional charges may be added as the investigation continues.
According to Kerr County Sheriff Larry Leitha, “Once again, we are faced with the thoughtless disregard for human life shown by human smugglers. This kind of activity is a cruel type of criminal enterprise. With the icing conditions on the Interstate that day, one patch of ice could have meant the loss of seventeen lives, and perhaps many more had the smuggler hit another vehicle. Smugglers show little care for their cargo, even children, in this case, placing money ahead of peoples’ lives. It must be stopped, and we will continue to intercept these criminals develop intelligence, and submit smuggling cases for felony prosecution.”