On Friday morning Department of Public Safety officers twice attempted routine traffic stops on Interstate 10 in Ahwatukee Foothills and twice ended up racing to capture what they suspect were fleeing illegal immigrants.

According to Officer Robert Bailey, a DPS spokesman at the scene, the first stop occurred April 2 around 5:30 a.m. on I-10 near Arizona Mills Mall. Bailey said a DPS officer pulled over a Chevrolet pick-up truck during a routine traffic stop and 14 suspected illegal immigrants scattered.

The driver, 22-year-old Rafael Velarde-Tirado of Mexico, was arrested and booked for human smuggling. The 13 others were turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Bailey said that an hour later, a DPS motorcycle officer attempted another routine traffic stop, but as the vehicle exited the freeway at Ray Road, it made a sudden U-turn.

Bailey said the Ford F-150 then drove eastbound on the shoulder of the westbound I-10 towards Chandler Boulevard before it stopped and another 17 suspected illegal aliens attempted to flee.

In both cases no one was injured, but Bailey said that a woman in the first stop was pregnant and complained to officers that she hadn’t had any water in four days.

This was the second stop in the last week where suspected coyotes have used plywood to cover the bed of a pickup truck containing a large number of illegal immigrants, police said.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents took the people into custody.

Interstate 10 is a major smuggling corridor into the United States. Other incidents locally include:

October 2009: 24 suspected illegal immigrants were taken into custody at I-10 near the Broadway curve. June 2009: Seven suspected illegal immigrants were taken into custody after a routine traffic stop on I-10 ended at Warner Road near 48th Street. April 2009: 15 suspected illegal immigrants were taken into custody near Wild Horse Pass on I-10. February 2009: 19 illegal immigrants and two smugglers were taken into custody at I-10 and Ray Road. January 2008: 11 illegal immigrants taken into custody at I-10 and Elliot Road. February 2008: 18 illegal immigrants taken into custody at I-10 and Ray Road. July 2007:Drop house in Ahwatukee Foothills with 19 illegal immigrants. February 2007: Five illegal immigrants kidnapped at gunpoint by smugglers at 50th Street and Ray Road. November 2003:A shootout between rival smuggling operations that began near Casa Grande ended at I-10 and Elliot Road with four dead and three wounded.

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