The suspected driver of an abandoned Texas tractor-trailer so far linked to 53 migrant deaths was reported to be "very high on meth" when he was arrested nearby and taken to a hospital.
Homero Zamorano — who allegedly has a lengthy rap sheet and addresses in Houston and the Rio Grande Valley — is expected to appear in federal court Wednesday on human smuggling charges, the San Antonio Express-News reported. The 45-year-old is accused of abandoning the large tractor-trailer in sweltering heat in an industrial area near Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland and fleeing the scene on Monday.
"He was very high on meth when he was arrested nearby and had to be taken to the hospital," an unnamed law enforcement official told the Express-News.
Investigators believed the big rig experienced mechanical problems when it was left next to a railroad track in an area of San Antonio surrounded by auto scrapyards that back up to a busy freeway.
Authorities said 46 migrants were pronounced dead at the scene Monday evening. The death toll later climbed to at least 53 after five more migrants died at San Antonio area hospitals.
The death toll of the human trafficking incident has made it "the worst one we’ve seen in the U.S.," Craig Larrabee, acting special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in San Antonio, said.
"The organizations are getting more violent — they don’t care about the people," Larrabee said, according to the Express-News. "They don’t think of them as people. They think of them as commodities."
The newspaper also reported that the migrants were doused in meat seasoning to mask their scent.
"Dogs are trained for several things. Some are trained to smell money. Some are trained to smell narcotics, weapons, and some dogs are trained to smell human beings," Timothy Tubbs, who retired as the deputy special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Laredo, said. "They will put seasoning on them to cover their scent, so they can get through the Border Patrol checkpoint."
After Zamorano was taken into custody, officers researched the Texas plate on the semi-truck and found it was registered at an address in San Antonio. While police conducted surveillance on the house, two Hispanic males were spotted leaving in separate vehicles. Officers quickly conducted traffic stops and arrested both men later determined to be Mexican nationals who overstayed their visas and were living in the U.S. illegally.
Juan Francisco D’Luna-Bilbao and Juan Claudio D’Luna-Mendez have been charged through separate criminal complaints as illegal aliens in possession of firearms, according to court documents filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court in the Western District of Texas.
When officers pulled over D’Luna-Bilbao, he admitted to having a handgun in his pick-up truck’s center console, a criminal complaint stated. While conducting a search warrant on the house, more firearms were recovered from the bedrooms of both men. ATF determined the guns were not made in Texas and, therefore, were transported through interstate and/or foreign commerce.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.