According to a press release, a Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) officer attempted to stop 25-year-old Sebastian Tovar of Toledo, Ohio, while he was driving a Dodge Ram in the Del Rio area on March 15.
A chase ensued that ended with Tovar colliding with oncoming traffic, killing eight people and seriously injuring another in his vehicle. All nine individuals Tovar was transporting were illegal aliens. Two American citizens not inside Tovar’s truck were also injured, per the DOJ.
“After the crash, U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) agents encountered a Ford F-150 stopped in traffic near the crash site. USBP agents directed the Ford to turn around and subsequently all occupants of the Ford fled the vehicle, absconding into nearby brush,” the press release stated.
“USBP agents were able to locate 12 undocumented noncitizens who bolted from the Ford. After interviewing two of the undocumented noncitizens, USBP agents determined that the occupants of the Dodge and Ford were part of a human smuggling operation that was illegally transporting 20 undocumented noncitizens in the U.S.”
The government indicated that Tovar, 33-year-old Nicolas Mondragon-Gonzalez of Austin, 34-year-old Veronica Torres-Mendez of Austin, 40-year-old Jennifer Davis of San Antonio, 19-year-old Ruben Rodriguez-Jaimes of Bastrop, 32-year-old Lauren Malmquist of Round Rock, and 23-year-old Eduardo Benitez of Bastrop are charged with one count of transporting illegal aliens resulting in death. If found guilty, they face sentences of life imprisonment.
Tovar is also looking at one count of transportation of illegal aliens resulting in serious bodily injury and one charge of conspiracy, for which he could be sentenced to 20 years each.
29-year-old Marco Hernandez of Paige and 21-year-old Jose Rodriguez of Austin, in addition to everyone else charged, are accused of up to several counts of transporting illegal aliens. They face up to ten years in prison on each of those counts.
Hernandez is the only defendant named in the 11-count indictment who authorities had not yet taken into custody as of Tuesday, according to the DOJ.
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Hayden Sparks is a senior reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."