The breached section of border wall. Courtesy CBP

Border Patrol agents arrested 16 people after smugglers cut an old landing-mat section of border wall to facilitate a drive-through human-smuggling incident.

Around 3:45 p.m. on Wednesday, agents on duty near Campo reported the incursion. A white Dodge 4500 utility truck had crossed into the United States from Mexico. Agents in the vicinity were alerted of the incursion.

At approximately 4 p.m., agents observed a man with bolt cutters attempting to cut a lock on a local resident’s private gate near a truck matching the description of the suspect vehicle. Agents activated their emergency lights and siren to stop the suspect vehicle, but the driver refused to yield and fled.

After a short pursuit the truck stopped and the driver and passengers fled. Agents tracked down the group and arrested all 16, who were transported to a nearby Border Patrol station for processing.

The group included nine Mexican men and boys between the ages of 15 and 53 and five Mexican women between the ages of 18 and 40. There were also two Guatemalan nationals, a 28-year-old man and a 29-year-old woman.

The stolen utility truck was seized by the Border Patrol and the driver, a 27-year-old Mexican national, will be criminally prosecuted.

“A vehicle drive-through, with overloaded and unsecured passengers, particularly in this terrain, can certainly result in a rollover accident with serious injuries and death,” said San Diego Sector Interim Chief Douglas Harrison. “The breach of this old landing mat wall is illustrative of the need for more hardened infrastructure with greater impedance and denial capabilities to keep the area secure.”

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