Traffic stop leads to 17 illegal immigrants detained in Garrison

Garrison, Texas (KETK) - The deaths of illegal immigrants packed into a big rig in San Antonio this week made headlines across the country.

Turns out, there was a similar discovery here in East Texas.

What started off as a routine traffic stop turned into something much bigger,when 17 illegal immigrants were detained by Garrison police on Tuesday.

Garrison Police Chief Tim Barton was in the process of handling another traffic violation when he saw the SUV pass by.

He quickly finished the traffic stop and began his pursuit.

Chief Barton pulled the SUV over across the Attoyac River, just past the Shelby County line.

"Upon making contact with the driver I noticed that he was extremely nervous and I could see lots of air fresheners in the vehicle and the back windows were blacked out so I asked him to roll down the back window," said Chief Barton.

Then, Chief Barton saw everyone jammed inside, sitting on the floorboards, on top of each other and anywhere else they could fit.

"My initial thought process when I saw everybody in the vehicle was San Antonio flashback in my mind about all the people that were being smuggled in the 18 wheeler," said Chief Barton.

He is referring to this tragic incident, only a day earlier, where more than 100 illegal immigrants were being transported in a semi trailer, 10 were found dead when police opened the truck in San Antonio. 

The Garrison case turned out differently.

"We got everybody out and made a head count from the car, gave them all water," Chief Barton said. "We contacted the Department of Homeland Security and they came down to the Nacogdoches County Sheriffs Office where we transported them to."

Investigators learned they were from Honduras, Ecuador, Guatemala and Mexico.

"When they got to the jail ICE was already here and they interviewed the subjects," said Captain Bill Ball, Nacogdoches County Sheriff's Office.

After that, some were discovered to have warrants for their arrest.

"They kept three of them and turned the rest loose," said Captain Ball.

After the initial stop Chief Barton's primary concern was the well being of the people in the car given just how hot it was that day.

"The main thing I was thinking about was the safety and well being of the individuals since there were so many in the vehicle," he said. "The heat index was well over 100 degrees, much like it is right now, at the time."

Those with outstanding warrants are now in the custody of ice agents and will be held for possible deportation.

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