Homero Zamorano: Driver of Truck in San Antonio Migrant Tragedy Identified

homero zamorano

Mexican police/Getty Homero Zamorado

Homero Zamorano is the accused driver of the semi-trailer truck in which 53 migrants were found dead near San Antonio, Texas.

“Homero Zamorano Jr., 45, was arrested today on criminal charges related to his alleged involvement in alien smuggling resulting in death, in violation of Title 8, United States Code, Section 1324.,” the U.S. Department of Justice wrote in a June 29, 2022, press release.

Zamorano has addresses in Houston and the Rio Grande Valley, according to the San Antonio Express-News, which added that he has a “long criminal history.” That newspaper named Zamorano as the driver per law enforcement sources.

Authorities were able to trace the truck’s registration to a home, where they also arrested Juan Claudio D’Luna-Mendez and Juan Francisco D’Luna-Bilbao. Those two men are charged with possessing firearms while residing in the United States, according to federal criminal complaints. You can read the complaint against D’Luna-Mendez here.

Here’s what you need to know:

Zamorano Pretended to be One of the Injured Migrants, Mexican Police Say

Mexican police say Zamorano pretended to be an injured migrant, according to KHOU-TV journalist Marcelino Benito.

A photo showed Homero Zamorano at a Border Patrol checkpoint in Encinal, Texas, at 2:50 p.m. on June 27, 2022, according to Benito. The 911 call came in around 5:50 p.m., she tweeted.

According to Benito, the death count rose from 51 to 53.

According to court documents, on June 27, 2022, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) “responded to the scene of a human smuggling event involving a tractor trailer and 64 individuals suspected of entering the United States illegally,” DOJ wrote in its news release.

“San Antonio Police Department (SAPD) officers advised HSI Agents that they arrived at the location of the tractor trailer in southwest San Antonio after receiving 911 calls from concerned citizens. At the scene, SAPD officers discovered multiple individuals some still inside the tractor trailer, some on the ground and in nearby brush, many of them deceased and some of them incapacitated.”

The release continued:

SAPD officers were led to the location of an individual, later identified as Zamorano, who was observed hiding in the brush after attempting to abscond. Zamorano was detained by SAPD officers.

Laredo Sector Border Patrol provided HSI agents surveillance footage of the tractor trailer crossing through an immigration checkpoint. The driver could be seen wearing a black shirt with stripes and a hat. HSI agents confirmed Zamorano matched the individual from the surveillance footage and was wearing the same clothing.

HSI confirmed that 48 individuals at the scene were deceased. Of those 22 were Mexican nationals, seven Guatemalan nationals, two Honduran nationals and 17 of unknown origin but suspected to be undocumented non-citizens (UNCs). HSI confirmed the undocumented status of the deceased individuals by utilizing a mobile fingerprint device. Sixteen of the 64 undocumented individuals were transported to local hospitals for medical evaluation. Five died at the hospital. Officials are working with foreign consulate offices for proper notifications to family members of the deceased.

Zamorano is charged by criminal complaint with one count of alien smuggling resulting in death. He is originally from Brownsville but resides in Pasadena, TX. If convicted, Zamorano faces up to life in prison or possibly the death penalty. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Zamorano Was ‘Very High on Meth’ When Arrested, Reports Say

GettyEmergency vechicles sit parked at the scene where a tractor-trailer was discovered with migrants inside outside San Antonio, Texas on June 27, 2022.

Authorities say they found Zamorano under the influence of drugs.

“He was very high on meth when he was arrested nearby and had to be taken to the hospital,” a law enforcement source told the San Antonio Express-News.

According to the Associated Press, the truck “passed through a Border Patrol checkpoint northeast of Laredo, Texas, on Interstate 35.” It’s not clear when the migrants entered the truck.

A city worker found the bodies after hearing a “cry for help from the truck parked on a lonely back road,” according to The Associated Press.

Most of those who died were males. More than a dozen people were taken to the hospital. They included four children, AP reported.

“This is a horror that surpasses anything we’ve experienced before,” San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said to AP. “And it’s sadly a preventable tragedy.”

AP reported that 27 of the dead are of Mexican origin, seven are from Guatemala and two are from Honduras. According to AP, authorities believe the truck had mechanical problems. There was no visible working air conditioning unit even though temperatures were close to 100 degrees. People suffered from heat stroke and exhaustion.

Authorities Traced the Truck’s Registered Address

GettyCross and candles are kept at the spot where a tractor-trailer was discovered with migrants inside, outside San Antonio, Texas on June 28, 2022.

Although a federal complaint has not been filed yet against Zamorano, the complaint against D’Luna-Mendez does provide some details of the law enforcement investigation.

On Monday June 27, 2022 at approximately 6 p.m., San Antonio Police Department officers “responded to an industrial area in reference to deceased humans inside a semi-truck’s trailer; officers arrived and confirmed the presence of deceased individuals inside the trailer,” the complaint says.

“Officers researched the Texas registration plate on the semi-truck and found a residence on the 100-block of Arnold Drive in San Antonio, Texas as the truck’s registered address with Texas motor vehicle records,” it says.

“San Antonio PD Officers established surveillance on the residence (100-block of Arnold Drive) and observed a truck leave the residence occupied by a young Hispanic male. Officers stopped the truck and identified Juan Claudio D’LUNA-Mendez as the driver.”

The complaint continues, “Officers obtained a search warrant for the residence on the 100-block of Arnold Drive based on information gained during a related, but separate, traffic stop. Upon successful service, the officers located an American Tactical Imports model Omni Hybrid, multi-caliber rifle with SN – NS117221, a German Sport Guns model GSG-5P, .22 caliber handgun with SN – A271841, and a Smith & Wesson model M&P 9 Shield M2.0, 9mm handgun with SN – JCD0475 in D’LUNA-Mendez’s bedroom.”

According to the complaint, D’Luna-Mendez “admitted to possession of the three firearms in his bedroom. D’LUNA-Mendez also admitted to his immigration status in the United States as a Visa overstay.”

An ATF Interstate Nexus examination” revealed the firearms seized were not manufactured in the State of Texas, and therefore traveled in interstate and/or foreign commerce. At SA Watkins’ request, federal immigration officials researched Juan Claudio D’LUNAMendez through immigration records and found D’LUNA-Mendez is a Citizen and National of Mexico residing illegally in the United States.”

According to the complaint, “D’LUNA-Mendez once possessed valid B-2 Visa and did not return to Mexico upon expiration of the Visa.”

The complaint against D’Luna-Bilbao also says he is a Mexican citizen who overstayed his visa. He is also accused of possessing multiple firearms.

Also charged by criminal complaint is Christian Martinez, 28, “who was arrested on June 28, 2022 in Palestine. He is charged with one count of conspiracy to transport illegal aliens resulting in death,” DOJ wrote in its news release.

“According to court documents, a search warrant was executed on a cell phone belonging to Zamorano. Through investigation, it was discovered that communications occurred between Zamorano and Martinez concerning the smuggling event. If convicted, Martinez faces up to life in prison or could face the death penalty. Martinez had an initial appearance today in Tyler. He will be transported to San Antonio for further proceedings.”

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