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Texas National Guard member charged with human smuggling after high-speed chase near the border

Authorities said the 26-year-old turned around at a Border Patrol checkpoint and fled from police in Kinney County.
Posted: 12:28 PM, Apr 05, 2024
Updated: 2024-04-05 13:28:42-04
A National Guard Humvee near Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park in Mission on Jan. 12, 2022.

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(Texas Tribune) — A Texas National Guard member was arrested and charged with human smuggling near the U.S.-Mexico border after he allegedly turned around at a Border Patrol checkpoint, then led state troopers on a high-speed chase that ended when police deployed road spikes, according to authorities and Kinney County court records.

Texas Department of Public Safety troopers arrested Savion Amari Donovan Johnson, 26, Sunday afternoon on Highway 90 in Kinney County after they pursued him at speeds of more than 100 miles per hour for 15 miles, according to arrest affidavits. He stopped mid-chase to drop off a young Hispanic man before speeding past cars on the wrong side of the highway, the affidavits said.

He finally stopped about two miles after the spike strip punctured the tires of the GMC SUV he was driving, the affidavits said.

Johnson was charged with a pair of felonies — human smuggling and evading arrest in a vehicle — as well as unlawfully carrying a weapon, a misdemeanor, after police discovered a 9-millimeter pistol in the vehicle.

Johnson’s arrest was first reported Wednesday by NewsNation, which also reported that he had been deployed to Eagle Pass as part of the state’s multibillion-dollar border initiative, Operation Lone Star.

It was not clear Thursday whether Johnson had a lawyer.

DPS investigators contacted Johnson’s first sergeant after his arrest, according to the affidavits. The Texas Guard did not respond to requests for comment.

"If the allegations are true, the accused is a traitor and criminal,” said Andrew Mahaleris, spokesperson for Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who serves as the Guard’s commander in chief. “We have zero tolerance for Texans who violate laws that directly contradict the mission we are seeking to achieve. The accused's illegal smuggling may subject him to a mandatory minimum prison sentence of at least 10 years. He deserves more."

A new state law passed by the Legislature last year increased the minimum sentence from two years to 10 years for people convicted of smuggling immigrants or operating a stash house.

“It’s not the first Guardsman that we’ve caught,” said Kinney County Sheriff Brad Coe, whose deputies also responded to the scene. “Everybody is susceptible to it because of the money involved. Guardsmen, other law enforcement agencies, Border Patrol agents have been involved in smuggling, FBI agents have been caught … it’s an age-old deal.”

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"Texas National Guard member charged with human smuggling after high-speed chase near the border" was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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