Two Mexican nationals at an address linked to the abandoned semi-truck where at least 53 migrants were found dead in Texas Monday night have been charged with illegal gun possession as federal authorities continue investigations into the gruesome discovery.
Juan Claudio D’Luna Mendez and Juan Francisco D’Luna Bilbao were in a house on Block 100 of Arnold Drive in San Antonio that was listed on the registration papers for the large oil rig that contained the bodies, which were discovered abandoned in an industry area of the Texas city, agents with the Federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Bureau wrote a criminal complaint.
Local police were just staking out the building at the address when they saw the D’Lunas get into a Ford F-250. Officers stopped the pickup to question the men after they drove away, according to the criminal complaint filed in federal court on Tuesday.
Officers said they obtained a search warrant to search the home and found a shotgun, rifle and three pistols scattered among the men’s bedrooms. There was also a gun in the F-250.
None of the men were allowed to legally own guns because they allegedly admitted arriving in the United States from Mexico on expired visas that they had overstepped, agents wrote in their complaint. They jailed both D’Lunas on illegal gun possession charges, and a judge ordered both held without bail until at least Friday, records show.
Both men face up to 10 years in prison if eventually convicted as charged.
Agents on Wednesday stopped directly linking the D’Lunas to the migrants’ deaths. But it is clear that they are suspected of other illegal activities.
Authorities said three people who police arrested within hours of discovering the bodies were suspected of smuggling the migrants across the southern US border without permits.
One of those arrested was the driver of the truck, who had posed as a passenger with an immigrant background. The other two were initially described only as Mexican nationals, which are the D’Lunas.
The attorney listed for D’Luna Mendez declined to comment Wednesday. D’Luna Bilbao’s lawyer was not immediately available.
At least 53 people found in the rig trailer at the center of the fall have died and 11 others have been hospitalized. It is believed to be the country’s deadliest smuggling episode on the US-Mexico border, reigniting the long-running debate over America’s immigration policy.
Officials believe the truck was carrying 67 migrants from countries including Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala. So far, 40 of the dead have been males and 13 females, said the Bexar County Coroner’s Office, which includes San Antonio.
The identities of fewer than 40 of the dead had been established as of Wednesday afternoon, authorities said, citing challenges in finding the names and relatives of people secretly crossing borders.
Eleven people were hospitalized with dehydration and other heat-related illnesses after being in a trailer without water and air conditioning as it drove through temperatures nearing 38C.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said the state’s Department of Public Safety will immediately begin adding more checkpoints for large tractor-trailers on well-travelled roads to limit incidents like Monday’s.