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“It’s not stopping”
Hazardous high-speed chases have become a routine occurrence in Frio County and are ending in abrupt stops with people fleeing in all directions into the brush.
“It is not stopping,” Frio County Sheriff’s Lt. Joshua Longoria said of the many chases in which the sheriff’s office was involved last week. “Many of them are American citizens smuggling immigrants.”
Deputies have noted an increase in cases along county and farm-to-market roads and state highways as smugglers try to avoid being spotted on IH-35.
Officers point to one recent incident as an example of the pursuits in which they have been involved.
According to reports filed at the sheriff’s office, a deputy on patrol in northern Frio County attempted to effect a traffic stop on a sport utility vehicle that was speeding on Highway 57 on Saturday, July 17.
The driver of the 2006 Ford Expedition was traveling at least nine miles over the posted speed limit and began to increase his speed after the deputy initiated the traffic stop. The driver turned onto the IH-35 access road and began traveling north before suddenly steering the SUV into the brush.
The report indicates that the driver stopped the vehicle after leaving the road and that he and several passengers climbed out and fled the scene of foot. Deputies said they lost sight of the individuals in the dense brush.
The incident occurred five days after another case in which deputies were recovered a stolen vehicle on CR 3201. A report on that case indicates the driver had led officers on a high-speed pursuit before damaging a fence line and abruptly stopping the vehicle. The driver and passengers abandoned the vehicle and fled into the brush.
“It is frustrating and can be overwhelming,” Longoria said of the incidents. “We only have so much manpower but we will continue to fight to keep this county safe.”
Deputies arrested 51-year-old Andrew Villar on Friday, July 16, after the San Antonio man fled from the scene of the traffic stop.
Investigators say Villar stopped after crossing the Zavala County line on FM 140 after a pursuit by law enforcement.
Villar was transported to the Frio County Jail without further incident and faces a Class B misdemeanor charge for fleeing from a police officer.