On June 30, at approximately 8:28 a.m., a Jeep Wrangler circumvented the United States Border Patrol checkpoint, located at mile marker 29 of Interstate Highway 35, using the west access road of IH-35. A Border Patrol agent parked on the west access road between mile markers 30 and 31 heard a report of the Jeep Wrangler via radio and within a few minutes, the vehicle passed the Border Patrol agent’s location. The agent observed a male driver, who appeared to be the vehicle’s sole occupant. The agent, operating a marked U.S. Border Patrol vehicle, followed the Jeep Wrangler northbound on the west access road. The Jeep Wrangler turned onto a dirt road, referred to by agents as the Cerrito Alleyway, and the agent observed the driver stop at a gate and briefly converse with an individual. The driver of the Jeep Wrangler continued towards the west access road, where the agent was stopped. The Jeep Wrangler stopped at the agent’s location and the agent lowered his window, asking the driver if he needed any assistance.
The driver of the Jeep Wrangler indicated he was looking for a wildlife safari. The agent got out of the US Border Patrol vehicle and approached the man to assist. As the agent approached, the man drove forward and nervously repeated that he had missed his exit and needed to go. The man drove away and the agent observed that the vehicle appeared to be riding low, as though it contained heavy cargo. The agent followed the vehicle onto the west access road and the Jeep Wrangler began to speed away from the agent.
At approximately 8:34 a.m., the agent activated his vehicle’s overhead lights and siren to conduct a traffic stop, but the driver of the Jeep Wrangler failed to yield, and a pursuit ensued northbound on the IH35 west access road. The agent notified a supervisor of the pursuit and reported speeds of approximately 90 mph as the pursuit continued northbound on the west access road.
At approximately 8:36 a.m., the Jeep Wrangler crossed IH-35 at the mile marker 32 underpass and merged onto northbound IH35 via the east access road. Border Patrol agents asked dispatch to request assistance from the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Encinal Police Department.
The agent pursued the Jeep Wrangler northbound on IH35, reporting that the vehicle was traveling over 100 mph in light traffic. As the agent traveled between mile markers 36 and 37, he reportedly lost sight of the Jeep Wrangler and slowed down. As the agent traveled over the mile marker 39 overpass, he observed a dust cloud in the parking lot of the Loves Travel Stop, located on the east access road and Highway 44 in Encinal, Texas. The agent immediately reported that the Jeep Wrangler was involved in a collision and requested Emergency Medical Services.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Professional Responsibility special agents reviewed video footage of the collision which revealed the following: At approximately 8:39 a.m., the Jeep Wrangler exited IH35 at mile marker 39 while traveling at a high rate of speed. The driver of the Jeep Wrangler failed to negotiate the exit ramp, lost control and struck the rear of the tractor trailer parked at the Loves Travel Stop. Approximately 14 seconds later, the first Encinal Police Department vehicle arrived on scene. At the time of the police department’s arrival, the pursuing Border Patrol agent’s vehicle can be seen traveling past the collision scene on the northbound lanes of IH35. Approximately 62 seconds later, the first U.S. Border Patrol vehicle arrived at the scene.
The Jeep Wrangler was found to contain a total of seven occupants. Four of the vehicle’s occupants were fatally injured, including two adult male citizens of Mexico, one adult citizen of Guatemala, and one unidentified individual. The driver of the Jeep Wrangler, a United States citizen, suffered head trauma and was airlifted to the University Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. Additionally, one adult male Guatemalan citizen was airlifted to University Medical Center, and another adult male Guatemalan citizen was transported to the Laredo Medical Center.
Texas Department of Public Safety assumed lead of the accident investigation and Homeland Security Investigations has initiated a criminal investigation against the driver of the Jeep Wrangler.
This incident is being investigated by the Texas Department of Public Safety and reviewed by CBP’s OPR. The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General was notified of the incident.