The Border Patrol and the Live Oak County Sheriff’s Office deputies began a long day and night after a call came in from a citizen reporting kids speeding around 8:24 a.m.
“The officers figured they were smugglers,” said LOC Sheriff Larry Busby. “And they were in two stolen vehicles.”
The stolen vehicles were reported missing from Duval County and Jim Wells County – a blue 2002 Ford pickup and a red 2003 Ford pickup, respectively.
Officers waited at the county line on Interstate 37 in South Live Oak County, but the suspects eluded police several times.
The speed limit there is 75 mph.
A second call at 11:58 a.m. reported one of the suspects approached a ranch house and asked to use a phone.
Busby said the suspects had bailed out east of Oakville.
Officers recovered the two stolen vehicles, a 12-gauge shotgun and a 20-gauge shotgun.
Guns missing included a .38 caliber handgun and a .22 caliber rifle.
One officer called in and reported seeing six to eight suspects, believed to be undocumented immigrants.
A Corpus-Christi based Department of Public Safety helicopter was in the area and also responded to the scene.
One of the suspects was captured and was reported to be cooperating with authorities.
Among the 12 Guatemalans captured was a woman from the Ukraine.
Busby said the search of the suspects went on late into the afternoon, during the night and into the next day.
In addition to the Border Patrol and sheriff’s department deputies, the Three Rivers Police Department and the Department of Public Safety participated in the search. Both a DPS helicopter and a Border Patrol helicopter were used in the search.
Busby said bail outs of undocumented immigrants have been happening quite frequently.
Here is a list of incidents like the Dec. 5 search where stolen vehicles were recovered in Live Oak County:
Nov. 28 – a bailout on Farm-to-Market Road 3162 involved more than 20 people, of which the majority were children around 10 years old.
The 2006 GMC carrying the children was stolen in Houston. The Texas Highway Patrol, deputies, DPS helicopter and the Border Patrol participated.
Nov. 30 – A 1999 Ford pickup was abandoned on Interstate 37 near mile marker 51. The vehicle had been stolen in Mathis. The Texas Highway Patrol investigated.
Dec. 5 – see above.
Dec. 7 – A 1994 Ford pickup was abandoned on County Road 225 near Farm-toMarket Road 1358. The vehicle had been stolen the night before in Beeville.
Vehicles stolen in Live Oak County and recovered elsewhere:
Nov. 28 – A 1999 Dodge pickup was stolen from a residence on a ranch at Dinero. The keys had been left in the vehicle.
Nov. 28 – A 2004 Ford F350 Dually four-door from property about a mile north of U.S. Highway 59 off property on I-37. The keys were not left in the vehicle. Busby says the truck was hot-wired or started some other way.
Nov. 29 – A 1997 Ford F250 with extended cab was stolen off state Highway 72. The vehicle was recovered in Karnes County on Dec. 6.
Nov. 30 – A 2005 Ford F250, four-door, was stolen from a mechanics’ garage in Oakville. The keys were not in the vehicle.
“We know it was stolen by illegals because we found the back seat and the console that had been taken out,” Busby said.
Busby said human smugglers rip out the back seat and console to fit more undocumented immigrants in the vehicle.
The F250 was recovered in Houston Dec. 10.
Dec. 7 – A 1996 Dodge Dually was stolen from a residence on County Road 216. It was recovered found abandoned on Dec. 9 in Houston.
Dec. 4 – The Beeville Police Department recovered a Gulf Motor Home that was stolen off County Road 325 on Nov. 10.
Busby said the pickup and vehicle theft “happen hot and heavy for a couple of weeks and then nothing.”
After a short period, he said then it happens again.
“Sometimes if the pressure is on somewhere else, they’ll show up,” he said.
But the problem is getting worse.
Busby said Corpus Christi has one highway from the Valley – U.S. Highway 77. But the larger cities have more manpower.
“We don’t have the manpower,” he said.
He said Duval, Jim Wells, Live Oak and McMullen counties have many roads that go through them.
“It’s the rural roads. All traffic funnels through these four counties’ back roads,” he said.
Also, Busby pointed out that the Border Patrol cannot set up checkpoints farther than 100 miles from the border.
Busby said once undocumented immigrants were transported directly from Mexico to their destination point.
Now, these immigrants are brought to a point where they meet the smuggler who is going to transport them farther.
“These smugglers are professionals. They steal cars in a second, rip the seats out and even take consoles out,” he said.