REFUGIO COUNTY, Texas - Refugio County Sheriff’s deputies stopped a major illegal immigrant smuggling operation Monday and put a notorious human trafficking coyote behind bars.
Refugio County Sheriff Pinky Gonzalez said illegal immigrants led authorities on a chase Monday after a traffic stop on Highway 77. One was taken into custody along with the coyote, but the other managed to get away, leaving a dead tracking dog for deputies to find.
The dog used to track the man, who authorities said was from Honduras, was found stabbed to death.
Body cam footage from the incident shows that it was around 8:45 a.m. when a Department of Public Safety trooper stopped a truck on Highway 77. Sheriff Gonzalez said the trooper quickly found out that two of the people inside were illegal immigrants from Honduras and the driver was a man from the Kingsville area that federal agents suspected of human trafficking.
The trooper called in deputies to help translate and when they were getting ready to take the men into custody, the two illegal immigrants took off in opposite directions. Gonzalez said two non-aggressive dogs were deployed to track them.
One man was found four miles south of Woodsboro, Texas. The other escaped, but not before killing one of the tracking dogs.
"These dogs actually saved officers' lives," Gonzalez said, "the way they've been stabbing our dogs."
The dogs, who were leant by Refugio rancher Joe Braman, are sent out with GPS tracking collars. Gonzalez said in the last year, they have lost four dogs.
Gonzalez said these stops and chases happen on a weekly basis as human smugglers make their way to hubs like Houston, where the people are released and they get paid. The sheriff said they are getting more aggressive.