Three suspects in federal custody after 51 migrants found dead in tractor trailer in San Antonio

One is the suspected driver of the truck, while the two others were picked up on weapons charges.

click to enlarge One of the men arrested is the suspected driver of the truck, while the two others were picked up on weapons charges after being surveilled by authorities. - Shutterstock
Shutterstock
One of the men arrested is the suspected driver of the truck, while the two others were picked up on weapons charges after being surveilled by authorities.
Three men are now in federal custody over their suspected involvement in the deaths of 51 migrants trapped in the back of a tractor-trailer abandoned in San Antonio, the Express-News reports.

The incident is being called the deadliest human smuggling case in U.S. history. Dozens of migrants packed into the truck were overcome by the sweltering Texas heat, and some remain hospitalized in the Alamo City. 

Law enforcement officials told the Express-News they arrested Homero Zamorano, 45, after he abandoned the truck Monday in Southwest San Antonio and tried to leave the scene. The suspect has addresses in both Houston and the Rio Grande Valley, according to the report.

“He was very high on meth when he was arrested nearby and had to be taken to the hospital,” an unnamed law-enforcement official told the daily.

Zamorano was found in a field along with survivors from the truck and may have been attempting to blend in with them, KSAT reports, citing another law enforcement source knowledgeable about the investigation. 

After Zamorano's arrest, authorities traced the abandoned semi to a residence in the 100 block of Arnold in Bexar County and put it under surveillance, according to the Express-News.

Law enforcement officials stopped a truck leaving the home and questioned the occupants, Juan Francisco D’Luna-Bilbao and Juan Claudio D’Luna-Mendez, the paper reports, citing sources close to the investigation. One of the men said he had a weapon in the truck, which prompted a search of the home.

The New York Times reports that federal prosecutors charged the pair with possession of illegal firearms. The men, both in the country illegally, had two handguns and a shotgun, according to the Times.

The abandoned semi likely was a "clone" of a trucking company vehicle based in the border town of Alamo, according to the Express-News. Smugglers sometimes use vehicles that match the color and state and federal ID numbers of legitimate freight haulers to avoid detection.

San Antonio Police Chief William McManus told the New York Times the tragic incident fit a pattern familiar to local officials. Due to the city's proximity to the border and major highways, it's been identified as a hotbed of human trafficking.

“We’ve seen it a number of times,” McManus said. “It is inherently dangerous because once you’re locked in there, you’re stuck. Once the refrigeration goes out, the air-conditioning goes out, it’s nothing but a death trap.”

Stay on top of San Antonio news and views. Sign up for our Weekly Headlines Newsletter.
Scroll to read more San Antonio News articles
Join the San Antonio Current Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.

Newsletters

Join SA Current Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.