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'It doesn’t stop': Cochise County Sheriff Deputy says there's an increase in pursuits, migrant smuggling

Posted at 4:04 PM, Apr 25, 2024

BENSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — KGUN 9 took a ride with Cochise County Sheriff's Deputy Bryan Lomeli on his patrols Tuesday night. He says the numbers of migrants they encounter and smugglers fleeing cops are continuing to rise within their jurisdiction.

While on a ridalong with the CCSO's Criminal Interdiction team KGUN got a first hand look at a scene that's becoming all too familiar for these deputies—a car carrying migrants looking to escape a troubled situation in Mexico.

On Tuesday night, a man and woman from Mexico were caught in the back of an SUV by deputies. They say they met while walking to the border while in Mexico. The man says he was a police officer in a municipality near Mexico City and planned his own trip, including purchasing plane tickets and nights at hotels.

“It seemed easy to come here," the migrant said.

He said once he was in the US, he used an app that he thought was for rides not connected to the cartels. Lomeli explained to KGUN that the driver was the one coordinating the pick up with the cartels, even if the migrants were unaware. He says after looking through the migrant's phone the driver was talking with the cartels, not the migrant, since he told KGUN that's who he was running from.

“(I came here) to protect myself (because) groups (were) threatening me," he said in Spanish. "I didn't want my family to suffer. It seemed easy. It didn't turn out the way I thought.”

Both migrants and the driver were turned over to Border Patrol. Lomeli says if they find evidence on the driver's phone that he was hired to smuggle the migrants they can have the county attorney's office press charges for smuggling. The deputy says this kind of stop is becoming more common since KGUN last rode with him, a year ago.

“It’s day in, day out," Lomeli said. "It doesn’t stop.”

The deputy grew up in Douglas and says it was important for him to be part of the team that helps keeps his community safe. He says that even though he knows what the unit's mission means to everyone on the team, for him it's a little bit closer to home.

“We all have the same mission," Lomeli said. "It's just it's a little closer to home when it's a place you've grown up in your entire life. You live in this community. You just you want to make it safer. And for it to be safe for you, your family, and everybody else in the in the area.”

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Alexis Ramanjulu is a reporter in Cochise County for KGUN 9. She began her journalism career reporting for the Herald/Review in Sierra Vista, which she also calls home. Share your story ideas with Alexis by emailing alexis.ramanjulu@kgun9.com or by connecting on Facebook.