A 28-year-old Texas man charged with orchestration the horrific smuggling operation that killed 53 migrants this week, he frantically texted the driver as the truck disappeared from radar and later admitted to a confidential informant that he had no idea the air conditioning in the sizzling large machine had gone down, the FBI say.
Christian Martinez, 28, was arrested Tuesday on charges of human trafficking involving death that would land him in prison or the death penalty after migrants reportedly battled debilitating temperatures of up to 150 degrees in the truck.
Martinez’s string of texts featuring the alleged semi-truck driver, 45-year-old Homero Zamorano Jr.were described in a criminal charge obtained Friday by The Daily Beast.
The complaint says the first text message came at 12:17 a.m. Monday when Martinez sent his alleged accomplice a photo of the semi-truck’s “manifesto.”
Zamorano is said to have replied two minutes later: “I’m going to the same place.”
San Antonio police found the semi-truck abandoned next to the track in a rural area outside of San Antonio.
According to the complaint, Martinez responded after 30 minutes by texting Zamorano at 3108 Chacon Street in Laredo, Texas, an industrial area just three miles from the Mexican border. But there would be no additional answers from Zamorano.
This caused Martinez to become seemingly frantic, harassing his partner with a volley of unanswered texts.
According to the charges, he texted a shortened version of “where are you at bro?” at 13:40
Martinez is said to have texted three more times at 3:18 p.m. saying, “Call me bro,” “Yes,” “Call me bro.”
The FBI says Martinez sent a final text at 6:17 p.m., again with the initials, “Wya?”
While Martinez texted, authorities said Zamorano drove the large rig through the Laredo checkpoint — where he was photographed by security cameras — and headed for the rural, southwestern end of San Antonio. It appears that the 73 migrants got into the truck in or near Laredo on Monday and confiscated their phones, some relatives told the Associated Press†
Homero Zamorano, 45, caught by security cameras as he drives through a checkpoint in the Laredo region.
Instituto Nacional de Migration
Authorities say Zamorano, for reasons unknown, then left the truck next to the track in San Antonio around 6 p.m. Monday. People nearby heard screams from survivors and called 911.
When the San Antonio police responded, they made a horrifying discovery: piles of bodies, warm to the touch, scattered across the back of the truck and on the road.
According to the indictment, Zamorano, who was “hiding” in a nearby thicket, tried to disguise himself as the victim. However, first responders did not buy it and took him into custody while taking the survivors of the truck to local hospitals.
Zamorano faces the same charges and possible punishment as Martinez for his role in what is said to be the deadliest smuggling incident in US history.
Facebook accounts for Zamorano and Martinez list the couple as friends. Martinez’s profile says he worked at Walmart, while Zamorano’s page lists him as single and from Brownsville, Texas – another city on the US-Mexico border.
Also, Mexican citizens Francisco D’Luna-Bilbao and Juan Claudio D’Luna-Mendez were arrested in connection with the tragedy, after authorities found them at an address linked to the large scum. They were arrested on charges of gun possession while illegally residing in the US – a charge that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
Martinez, who appears to be living in a modest cottage in Palestine, Texas, was already under investigation by Homeland Security, the indictment said. After the truck was discovered Monday, authorities say Martinez admitted to a confidential informant before his arrest that he was involved and that he was unaware that the truck’s air conditioning was off. He also said Zamorano – whom he called “Homer” – tried to run away from authorities.
As for the victims, 27 Mexicans, 14 Hondurans, seven Guatemalans and two Salvadorans have been confirmed dead, according to Francisco Garduño, head of the Mexican government’s National Migration Institute.
Families from Mexico and Central America have since used social media to commemorate their loved ones, while US authorities have yet to release identities.
The dead, who were followed by a car accident that… four migrants murdered days later in Texas, have reignited tense debate in the US over immigration on the country’s southern border.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican running for reelection, was quick to blame President Joe Biden for Monday’s tragedy.
“These deaths are on Biden,” Abbott tweeted Monday night. “They are the result of his deadly open borders policy. They show the deadly consequences of his refusal to enforce the law.”
Elsewhere in Texas, meanwhile, immigrant organizations pointed the other way, citing strict immigration laws as the reason why migrants seeking a better life in America must first put their lives — and often their savings — in the hands of smugglers.
“We are shocked and stunned by the horrific and tragic loss of life last night in our community here in San Antonio,” said RAICES San Antonio, a refugee and immigrant center. “At least 50 lives have been lost to an immigration system that dehumanizes and criminalizes those seeking asylum within our borders.”