DOJ identifies truck driver, other suspects arrested in deaths of migrants found in tractor trailer in San Antonio
SAN ANTONIO, Texas (KWTX) - The U.S. Department of Justice on Wednesday announced the arrest of Homero Zamorano Jr., 45, on criminal charges related to his alleged involvement in the deaths of 53 migrants found inside an abandoned tractor trailer in San Antonio.
Zamorano is charged in a criminal complaint alleging alien smuggling resulting in death. He is originally from Brownsville but resides in Pasadena, Texas, officials said. If convicted, Zamorano faces up to life in prison, or possibly, the death penalty.
On June 27, 2022, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) responded to a neighborhood in San Antonio where dozens of people suspected of entering the United States illegally were found dead inside a tractor trailer.
San Antonio Police Department officers were later led to the location of an individual, later identified as Zamorano, who was observed hiding in the brush after attempting to elude authorities. Zamorano was eventually detained by SAPD officers.
Laredo Sector Border Patrol provided HSI agents surveillance footage of the tractor trailer crossing through an immigration checkpoint. The driver could be seen wearing a black shirt with stripes and a hat. HSI agents confirmed Zamorano matched the individual from the surveillance footage and was wearing the same clothing, federal prosecutors said.
Also charged by criminal complaint is Christian Martinez, 28, who was arrested on June 28, 2022 in Palestine, Texas. He is charged with one count of conspiracy to transport illegal aliens resulting in death.
According to court documents, a search warrant was executed on a cell phone belonging to Zamorano. An investigation revealed conversations regarding the deadly smuggling attempt between Zamorano and Martinez, officials said.
If convicted, Martinez faces up to life in prison or the death penalty. Martinez had an initial appearance Wednesday in Tyler and will be transported to San Antonio for further proceedings.
In addition to arrests of Zamorano and Martinez, Juan Claudio D’Luna-Mendez, 23, and Juan Francisco D’Luna-Bilbao, 48, both citizens of Mexico, were arrested and had an initial court appearance.
According to court documents, the registration for the tractor trailer used in the attempted alien smuggling event came back to a residence in San Antonio.
SAPD officers set up surveillance on the residence and observed two med leaving in separate trucks.
After traffic stops on both trucks, the drivers were identified as D’Luna-Mendez and D’Luna-Bilbao. D’Luna-Bilboa was in possession of a handgun that was found in the center console of the truck he was driving. A search warrant was executed at the residence where additional firearms were located.
Both individuals were determined to be in the U.S. illegally and were charged by criminal complaint with one count of possession of a weapon by an alien illegally in the U.S. If convicted, both defendants face up to 10 years in prison.
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