As many as 11 undocumented immigrants were found packed inside a 2002 Ford pickup following a dramatic vehicle chase early Saturday. Photo by Richard Cantu.
By BEN TINSLEY
GEORGE WEST — A Live Oak County sheriff’s deputy was forced to shoot out the front and back passenger tires of a 2002 Ford pickup early Saturday to stop the out-of-control vehicle from barreling through town at speeds greater than 85 mph.
“The driver simply refused to stop,” explained Live Oak County Sheriff Larry Busby. “He was driving erratically, recklessly and at high speeds and heading directly into George West. Shooting the tires out was a last resort, but driving the way he was driving, the man behind the wheel could easily have killed somebody if he hadn’t been stopped.”
The pickup, which was northbound on Highway 281 when the tires were incapacitated, passed across the southbound lane, coming to rest on the shoulder of the road directly across the street from the George West Holiday Inn, 200 S. Nueces St.
There, officers with the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Live Oak County Sheriff’s Department and the city of George West were astonished to discover 11 undocumented immigrants stashed inside the vehicle.
The human cargo apparently played a factor for the driver’s reckless disregard for public safety.
“He was determined to get to San Antonio,” the sheriff said. “He even admitted after he was in custody he had no intention of stopping.”
The immigrants ultimately were remanded to the custody of the Border Patrol.
The chase, which began earlier in Jim Wells County, entered Live Oak County around 8:26 a.m. Saturday. Texas DPS troopers in that county noticed the erratic movements of the pickup. They tried to get the vehicle to stop and pull over, but the driver refused–continuing along 281 South toward Live Oak County.
Live Oak County authorities soon joined the chase.
As the pursuit grew harrowing, local authorities shut down Business 59 and 281, so the out-of-control driver could pass though without striking anyone.
Earlier in the chase, outside of Live Oak County, DPS troopers tried to use spikes to stop the vehicle, but the driver eluded them.
“He was about 16 miles into Live Oak County before he was stopped,” the sheriff said.
A George West Police Department representative deferred comment regarding the incident to the Texas DPS.
The driver was identified as John David Maciel, 20, of San Antonio. He was arrested on suspicion of evading arrest and smuggling human beings. He was initially arraigned in George West–although bond was not immediately set–then remanded to the custody of the Texas DPS officers who took him back to Jim Wells County to face charges.
“If they let him go on bond down there, we will pick him up and bring him back here,” the sheriff said.
Ben Tinsley is a reporter for The Progress. He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 361-786-3022. Tinsley can also be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/BenTinsley or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ben.tinsley.12.