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By Breyana Segura
and Marc Robertson
At least six individuals fled from law enforcement officers Sunday evening, March 12, after a high-speed pursuit ended in a car fire beside the interstate in La Salle County.
Reports on the case from the Encinal Police Department and the La Salle County Sheriff’s Office indicate that officers had tried shortly after 8 p.m. to halt a northbound white Cadillac sport utility vehicle for a traffic violation when the driver accelerated, initiating a pursuit.
Pursuing officers reported that the suspect stopped the vehicle near Milemarker 56, some twelve miles short of reaching Cotulla, and that three men climbed out of the Cadillac and fled into the roadside brush.
The sheriff’s office was notified of the situation and Deputy Glenn Harlow deployed tire-deflating spikes in the roadway at Milemarker 63, between Artesia Wells and Cotulla, bringing the vehicle to a halt.
Witnesses have indicated that sparks emanating from the car’s wheel rims have have caused the fire and that three further male occupants jumped from the Cadillac before it was engulfed in flames. The sheriff’s office has reported that fire spread to the roadside median for a distance of up to fifty yards and required extinguishing by members of the La Salle Fire Rescue, dispatched to the scene alongside agents of the US Border Patrol and troopers of the Texas Highway Patrol.
The vehicle had been listed by the San Antonio Police Department as stolen.
None of those who absconded into the brush had been captured as of press time; US Border Patrol agents remained on scene until after the wreckage had been removed by the Munoz towing service of Cotulla.
“We would like to thank the La Salle County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Anthony Zertuche, the US Border Patrol Laredo Sector Cotulla Station and La Salle County Fire Rescue for assistance,” a spokesperson from the Encinal Police Department wrote in a prepared statement.
At the sheriff’s office, deputies are noting that the incident serves as a reminder of the dangers posed to travelers on the interstate by those who are attempting to evade capture.
“Cases of human smuggling and drug transport continue to occupy our officers patrolling the interstate, and they require significant attention from law enforcement agencies across South Texas, day and night,” La Salle Lt. Homar Olivarez said. “We are fortunate to benefit from state funding through Operation Lone Star for equipment in this ongoing effort to stem the criminal tide affecting the safety and wellbeing of the people of our county, and we are able to deploy additional officers on overtime patrol shifts supported by Operation Stonegarden, but it is also important that the general public be aware of the situation and be prepared to take action to avoid harm.
“Motorists who witness a pursuit in progress or any other law enforcement action or potentially criminal driving behavior by those trying to evade officers should slow down, move over, and be prepared to stop when ordered,” the lieutenant said. “It is important that our officers and those of all agencies across the region be allowed to carry out their duties unhindered.”