23 suspect illegals crammed into stolen minivan detained despite diversion


by Catherine Holland

Video report by

Posted on January 6, 2012 at 6:36 AM

Updated Friday, Jan 6 at 11:23 AM

Map: Warner and McQueen roads
Rural and Elliot roads

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CHANDLER, Ariz. -- As many as 23 people who were crammed into a stolen minivan were taken into custody in the East Valley early Friday morning despite an apparent attempt by another driver to divert officers.

According to the Department of Public Safety, an officer started following a stolen minivan on westbound Interstate 10 near Queen Creek shortly after 6 a.m.

The DPS Duty Office says that officer was waiting for air support before attempting to stop the vehicle.

At that point, somebody in a second vehicle started driving erratically. The car bumped the DPS vehicle that was following the minivan, apparently attempting to create a diversion and give the minivan driver the opportunity to get away.

The officer stuck with the minivan, however, eventually stopping it near McQueen and Warner roads in Chandler.

Aerial video showed at least half a dozen squad cars surrounding the minivan and 23 people, suspect illegal immigrants, laying side by side, face down on the ground. The men ranged in age from about 18 to 30 years old.

The car that hit the DPS car was stopped at Rural and Elliot roads in Tempe. The man who was behind the wheel was detained, as well.

Investigators told 3TV's Gibby Parra that the woman who was driving the minivan and the man who was driving the car have the same address, but they would not say how the two are related. Those two people, both of whom are U.S. citizens, were arrested without incident and will face a variety of charges, including human smuggling and assault on an officer.

No injuries were reported and DPS says there was no chase.

Details are still being sorted out and will be updated as they become available.