20 detained in suspected human trafficking case
March 7, 2014 at 7:01 p.m.
Updated March 6, 2014 at 9:07 p.m.
Eighteen people believed to be in the United States illegally and two drivers were detained after racing through Victoria at high rates of speed and disturbing traffic.
Several 911 calls came into the Victoria County Sheriff's Office about 11 a.m. Friday claiming people were coming out of the brush on U.S. Highway 59 near the Goliad County line and getting into two awaiting vehicles, Victoria County Sheriff T. Michael O'Connor said.
Two vehicles, a pickup and a four-door minivan, were said to be traveling at speeds in excess of 80 mph on the highway toward Victoria and weaving in and out of traffic, O'Connor said.
Officers located the vehicles but were unable to immediately stop them because of the possible dangers involved in a high-speed pursuit, O'Connor said.
With the help of the Department of Public Safety, the two agencies were able to box in the cars near U.S. Highway 87 and Zac Lentz Parkway without incident and detain all of the occupants.
The minivan contained five occupants while 15 people were in the pickup. The women were held in the front of the truck, O'Connor said, and the men were piled on top of each other in the bed.
"It looked to be human trafficking," O'Connor said, stating passengers told officers it had been at least two or three days since they last drank or ate something. They were all fed and given water while detained.
O'Connor said it appeared all of the passengers came from either Mexico, Central America or South America, and their ages ranged from juveniles to elderly adults.
One driver was a Mexican national with a work visa, and the other was from Houston.
The sheriff did not release the names.