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4 arrested, charged in connection with deadly tractor-trailer smuggling incident in San Antonio

KHOU-TV Houston logo KHOU-TV Houston 6/30/2022 KHOU 11 Staff, KENS 5 News, KENS 5 News

Four suspects have now been officially identified, charged and arrested in connection with this week's deadly human-smuggling event in which authorities found dozens of migrants dead in an abandoned tractor-trailer in San Antonio.

Shortly after Mexican officials identified the alleged driver of the 18-wheeler as 45-year-old Homero Zamorano Jr. on Wednesday, the Department of Justice confirmed Zamorano as the suspect, saying he was found in a nearby field pretending to be one of the injured smuggled migrants, according to authorities.

They later confirmed he was the driver based on surveillance footage at immigration checkpoints in south Texas.

He's now been charged with smuggling resulting in death.

Zamorano is from Brownsville but lived in the Pasadena area, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

RELATED: San Antonio migrant deaths lead to slow effort to ID victims

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Christian Martinez, 28, is also charged with smuggling resulting in death after he was arrested on Tuesday, the DOJ said. Investigators were led to Martinez after finding Zamorano had communicated with him "concerning the smuggling event."

Zamorano and Martinez could be sentenced to life in prison or the death penalty if they're convicted.

Meanwhile, two Mexican men residing in the country illegally were also taken into custody after police found the tractor-trailer was registered to a home on Arnold Drive in north San Antonio, according to arrest documents. The two men were charged with being in possession of a firearm while in the country illegally, charges that could put them behind bars for up to a decade.

According to criminal complaints filed on Tuesday, police found several guns in the Arnold Drive residence while executing a search warrant. While being interviewed by Homeland Security, both men admitted to overstaying their U.S. visas. Neither, however, has been charged with smuggling, and it's unclear as of yet if they are part of the trio of detained suspects mentioned by McManus on Monday.

As of Wednesday evening, 53 have died after they were discovered in the trailer, primarily from heat-related sickness. Eleven others are still hospitalized in San Antonio medical facilities.

Homeland Security is leading what is now a federal investigation, in conjunction with ATF and SAPD.

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