Human Smuggler Shoots at Border Patrol During High-Speed Chase

December 29, 2017 Updated: January 2, 2018

WASHINGTON—Roberto Ramirez pulled up at a Border Patrol checkpoint near Amado, Arizona, on Christmas Eve. His hands were “shaking tremendously” as he held a cigarette, and he refused to make eye contact. His two passengers stared straight ahead, a Border Patrol agent recounted in a court document.

Ramirez, 21, told the agent that he was heading to Tucson, Arizona, and the two passengers were his friends. He was directed to a secondary screening area after the agent failed to get a direct answer about citizenship from the passengers.

Ramirez briefly paused at the secondary area before speeding through the inspection point and fleeing along I-19 at speeds up to 90 miles per hour, according to court documents. Two Border Patrol agents pursued in separate vehicles. The agents both tried pursuit techniques to stop Ramirez, but he allegedly tried to swerve into their vehicles.

One of the agents then drove alongside Ramirez, but hit the brakes when he saw Ramirez point a gun at him and start firing, the court documents state.

Suddenly, Ramirez’s Ford Escape jerked and flipped multiple times, throwing passenger Eduardo Villegas-Ocochoto out of the vehicle. Villegas-Ocochoto suffered serious injuries including a broken collarbone and shoulder.

Later, passenger German Vasquez-Luna said he was an illegal alien who had made arrangements in Mexico to be smuggled into the United States for $7,000. He had planned to be smuggled to Kalamazoo, Michigan, and work at a stable. Vasquez-Luna said he had been picked up by Ramirez somewhere near Nogales, Arizona. He said Ramirez crashed because he was trying to reload his pistol while driving. Ramirez had said, “This time they are not going to catch me,” according to the court document.  

Villegas-Ocochoto said he was also heading to Kalamazoo and had already paid 17,000 Mexican pesos ($864) and owed another 143,000 pesos ($7,270). He said he had crossed into the United States from Mexico earlier that day and was picked up by a pickup truck and then transferred to Ramirez’s vehicle.

Both passengers said they had never met Ramirez before.

Ramirez said he got paid $500 for each illegal alien to transport them to Phoenix, Arizona. He told police he was working off a debt his father owed to the cartel and that he had bought the gun two days earlier so that he could kill his father.

Ramirez was charged with multiple offenses, including transportation of illegal aliens resulting in serious bodily injury, high-speed flight from a Border Patrol checkpoint, assault on a federal officer, and use of a firearm in furtherance of a violent crime.

Several of the charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

He will remain in custody for the duration of the trial.

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