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Tom Johnston

Illegal Immigrants Smuggled in U-Haul

On Sunday, July 7th, 2013 at 2:10 p.m. the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office received a 9-1-1 call from an individual at the “Bowlins Travel Center” located at 16543 East Camino Adelante (I-10 and Picacho Peak). The caller reported to dispatchers and later to deputies on scene, a U-Haul box truck had stopped at this location. When the driver and front seat passenger opened the backend of the box truck, several subjects were inside and they appeared to be in medical distress as they were “falling out and staggering” as they attempted to get out.

When deputies arrived on scene, they observed several adult Hispanic males and females who were standing, sitting, and or lying nearby or inside of the U-Haul truck. The individuals told deputies, there were approximately 14-20 illegal immigrants in the truck when it stopped. All of them were picked up in Douglas, Arizona by a white male subject who was driving the U-Haul and a white or Hispanic female subject who was the front seat passenger.

All of the subjects stated they had paid $5000 each for transportation to Phoenix. After each individual paid for their ride, they were loaded into the truck. During transportation many of the occupants became severely dehydrated and overheated due to the extreme heat and inhumane conditions in the locked U-Haul truck.

Witness accounts indicated several of the occupants of the U-Haul stayed by the vehicle after it parked at the travel center due tomedical conditions ranging from dehydration and fatigue to heat stroke causing vomiting, loss of bowel control, and unconsciousness. Emergency Medical Personnel arrived on scene and worked with deputies to render aid. Two of the subjects were in critical condition and had to be taken by air ambulance to a hospital, six of the subjects were transported by ground ambulance to local hospitals.

A total of 8 subjects were initially located at the scene. Witnesses advised an additional 5-6 subjects were seen walking east into the desert area.

Members of the U.S. Border Patrol responded to assist in locating the individuals. They were able to locate the outstanding subjects in the desert east of the U-Haul. All of the individuals located in the desert were transported to the Casa Grande Border Patrol station to be interviewed.

Sheriff Paul Babeu stated, “My deputies continue to do their job attempting to stop those who are involved with drug and human smuggling from traveling freely through the United States. This is another example of how an unsecured border facilitates the inhumane and often deadly consequences of those involved with drug and human smuggling. The outside temperature yesterday was extremely hot and inside of the locked box of the U-Haul temperatures may have reached over 180 degrees. Thankfully an alert citizen called 9-1-1 in time and deputies along with EMS personnel were able to provide lifesaving treatment.”