Smuggler jailed after downtown pursuit
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TEEN RACED THROUGH SCHOOL ZONES WHILE STUDENTS WALKED FROM CAMPUS
A 19-year-old Mexican national has been cuffed on a rake of felony and misdemeanor charges and is awaiting processing for possible deportation after he was arrested at the scene of a crash that ended a pursuit through downtown Cotulla on Monday afternoon, April 3.
With school campuses releasing their students at the very moment that Jaime Rebolledo-Manzanilla fled from Highway Patrol troopers on IH-35, the county sheriff is reiterating a warning to local residents that pursuits of smugglers may endanger the general public, notably young pedestrians.
Dashboard camera footage from local sheriff’s deputies shows the suspect driving at speeds close to 90 miles per hour on Main Street and then zig-zagging through several residential streets, more than twice approaching the Ramirez/Burks Elementary School, from which youngsters had begun walking home.
Reports on the case indicate that Highway Patrol troopers first spotted the suspect at the wheel of a stolen pickup truck traveling north towards Cotulla near Milemarker 65 on IH-35 and that the driver attempted to evade capture by leaving the interstate at Exit 67, turning the Dodge 1500 towards Leonard Avenue.
The pursuit involved officers from several law enforcement agencies when Rebolledo-Manzanilla sped south on Main Street and drove around Veterans Park before speeding north on Stewart St.
Dashboard camera footage from Deputies Richard Gonzales and Eusebio Garcia shows the suspect failing to stop at several intersections and driving at such speed that passengers riding in the bed of the pickup truck are thrown into the air.
The Dodge spun out of control at the intersection of Stewart and Medina streets, colliding with a traffic sign before coming to rest at the edge of the road.
Rebolledo-Manzanilla and three passengers jumped from the truck and fled on foot in different directions, but each was captured within minutes and brought into custody. The three passengers have been identified as undocumented immigrants.
The driver listed a Laredo residence but is a citizen of Mexico. He will be transferred to the custody of federal immigration agents when he has been processed on the local charges.
“We are relieved that no one was injured in this pursuit,” Sheriff Anthony Zertuche said this week. “We have grave concerns over the proximity of this pursuit to the schools, to students walking home, and to the general public.”
La Salle Sheriff’s Lt. Homar Olivarez said the deputies’ dashboard cameras showed the suspect’s vehicle weaving between others on Main Street and on more than one occasion driving into the path of oncoming traffic.
In another piece of dash-cam footage, students walking home from school are seen fleeing from the edge of the road as the suspect’s vehicle races along residential streets, Olivarez said.
“We are reminding the public to get out of the way, pull over to the side of the road, stop, and avoid creating further hazard or endangering themselves when an incident like this occurs,” the lieutenant said.
The incident marks the second in as many months in which a suspect has driven through Cotulla at a high rate of speed.
“All law enforcement agencies are aware of the dangers to local citizens when a pursuit comes into town, and we try to avoid it happening, but this case was especially significant because of the number of children and parents around the schools,” the sheriff said. “We take measures to prevent it, but we want people to understand the danger of it happening is going to be there, and to be especially alert.
“We don’t want anyone else to get hurt because of the reckless behavior of desperate smugglers,” the sheriff said. “The peoples’ safety is our responsibility, and we will do what is in our power to minimize the danger to the public, especially to our children.”
The sheriff added in an interview this week that he expects to work closely with other law enforcement agencies on coordinated efforts to increase measures aimed at preventing pursuits from straying into residential neighborhoods, school zones, park areas and business districts.
Rebolledo-Manzanilla faces three third-degree felony charges of human smuggling, a third-degree felony for evading arrest with a vehicle, misdemeanor charges for reckless driving, and further charges pending the outcome of an investigation by the Texas Department of Public Safety.