Two men indicted in San Antonio migrant trailer tragedy

The Attorney General’s Office could authorize prosecutors to seek the death penalty

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Thursday 21 July 2022 15:06 BST
Related video: Houston advocates calling for change after dozens of migrants were found dead in San Antonio
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Two men have been indicted following the tragedy in Texas where 53 migrants were found dead in a trailer near San Antonio.

Homero Zamorano Jr, 46, and Christian Martinez, 28, have both been indicted by a federal grand jury in the city after the discovery of the airless tractor-trailer on 27 June.

Both men, from Pasadena, Texas and Palestine, Texas, respectively, face counts of transporting and conspiring to transport migrants illegally resulting in death and transporting and conspiring to transport migrants illegally resulting in serious injury.

They are currently in the custody of federal authorities without bond awaiting trial.

If convicted on the death counts, the men could face life sentences. Though, the Associated Press notes, the Attorney General’s Office may “authorize prosecutors to seek death penalties.”

The counts involving serious bodily injury can result in sentences of up to 20 years.

The deadliest incident involving migrants smuggled across the Mexican border into the US, the trailer was holding 73 people in total and 53 of them died. Of those who passed, 27 were from Mexico, 14 from Honduras, seven came from Guatemala, and two were from El Salvador, according to the head of Mexico’s National Immigration Institute, Francisco Garduño.

The dead included migrants from the Mexican states of Guanajuato, Veracruz, Oaxaca, Mexico, Zacatecas, Queretaro, Morelos, and Mexico City.

Relatives, friends and neighbors mourn while receiving the body of Pascual Melvin Guachiac Sipac, 13, who died in the tragedy of 27 June in Texas; in the Tzucubal village, Nahuala, Guatemala, 15 July 2022
Relatives, friends and neighbors mourn while receiving the body of Pascual Melvin Guachiac Sipac, 13, who died in the tragedy of 27 June in Texas; in the Tzucubal village, Nahuala, Guatemala, 15 July 2022 (EPA)
Relatives, friends and neighbors carry the coffin containing the body of Pascual Melvin Guachiac Sipac, 13, who died in the tragedy of 27 June in Texas; in the Tzucubal village, Nahuala, Guatemala, 15 July 2022
Relatives, friends and neighbors carry the coffin containing the body of Pascual Melvin Guachiac Sipac, 13, who died in the tragedy of 27 June in Texas; in the Tzucubal village, Nahuala, Guatemala, 15 July 2022 (EPA)

Police arriving on the road where the trailer was found arrested Mr Zamorano after seeing him in some nearby bushes, the office of the US Attorney said in a statement. Calls to Mr Martinez about the smuggling operation were later discovered on his phone.

Security footage of the 18-wheeler moving through a Border Patrol checkpoint of the driver of the truck matched the description of Mr Zamorano, the indictment stated.

One of the survivors, a 20-year-old woman from Guatemala, said that the smugglers had covered the truck floor in what she thought was chicken bouillon powder, seemingly to confuse search dogs at the border checkpoint.

The incident took place amid a large influx of migrants entering the US, with many taking extraordinary risks to cross fast-moving rivers and canals, and attempting to pass through deserts in dangerously high temperatures. In May, migrants were apprehended almost 240,000 times, an increase of a third compared to a year previously.

In a smaller but similar incident in 2017, 10 people were found dead after being trapped in a truck that was parked at a Walmart in San Antonio. The bodies of 19 migrants were found in a hot truck southeast of the city in 2003.

The Independent has reached out to the lawyers for Mr Zamorano and Mr Martinez for comment.

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