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Operation Lone Star catches notorious ‘joker’ smuggler

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(The Center Square) – Law enforcement officers working through Texas’ border security mission, Operation Lone Star, are continuing to pursue and apprehend human smugglers – including a notorious coyote called “the joker.”

Their efforts also highlight the ongoing problem law enforcement and local residents are dealing with: crime committed by gotaways.

In one recent example, a driver of a work truck led Texas DPS officers on a high-speed vehicle pursuit. At one point, the driver stopped to let nine male Hispanics bail out of the truck in a residential area. It’s unclear if they were ever apprehended.

DPS troopers pursued the driver. Their goal is to catch human smugglers, law enforcement officers have explained to The Center Square. Multiple troopers engaged in pursuit. One deployed a tire deflation device, causing the driver to lose control of the vehicle. The driver, from Laredo, was arrested and charged with smuggling of persons and evading arrest.

Those who escaped are referred to as “gotaways” by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. They are primarily single, military-age men who illegally enter the U.S., intentionally seeking to evade capture by law enforcement and make their way into the interior of the U.S.

In Laredo, Texas Army National Guard soldiers helped apprehend a well-known coyote in the area called “the joker.” Coyotes are cartel operatives who guide foreign nationals illegally into the U.S.

Texas Army National Guard Specialist Jonathan Sarver, a rifleman for Alpha Company, Task Force Center, helped apprehend “the joker.” When describing his recent capture, Sarver said, “Most of these guys, they employ underage people. They employ a lot of minors.

“It’s good to feel like you’re making a difference for a while at least and get them off the street and making it harder for them. It’s good to feel like you’re making a difference and having a sense of purpose out here.”

In neighboring Webb County, a human smuggler led DPS troopers on a high-speed chase reaching speeds up to 90 mph. The driver drove on the wrong side of the road on the highway and then into a local neighborhood also on the wrong side of the road. At one point during the pursuit, a driver of a white Mustang attempted to block the trooper, and multiple troopers engaged in two pursuits.

The driver of the first vehicle drove into the Rio Grande River, left the vehicle in the river and swam across to Mexico. He got away. Troopers continued to pursue the second driver, who crashed his vehicle and was arrested. He was charged with evading arrest, smuggling of persons, and interfering with public duties.

High speech car chases and bailouts occurring multiple times a day in border towns is the norm, officials have explained. These are just three of many examples.

Mostly single military-age men are who lead law enforcement on high-speed car chases, which involve bailouts of gotaways. Those being smuggled in have already illegally entered the U.S., are not making asylum or other immigration claims, and are intentionally trying to evade capture.

If OLS officers weren’t apprehending them, border communities would be more overrun than they already are and more human smugglers would be operating in the U.S., Gov. Greg Abbott argues.

As of July 14, since March 2021, OLS officers have so far apprehended over 390,500 illegal foreign nationals and made over 30,800 criminal arrests, with more than 28,700 felony charges reported. They’ve also seized over 421 million lethal doses of fentanyl, enough to kill more than everyone in the United States.

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