A suspected human smuggler was arrested Wednesday after trying to run over a motorcycle officer and then leading police on a highspeed chase through Gilbert with 24 illegal immigrants in the back of a stolen pickup truck, police said.
The nine-mile pursuit, reaching speeds about 70 mph, ended when the truck crashed through a fence and drove into an orange grove.
Police said the truck’s driver, Dalton Jonathan Cecena, 24, and passenger Christopher Lee Hankins, 17, both of Tucson, were smuggling the men, women and children to an undisclosed place after the group had spent days crossing the Arizona desert.
The 24 immigrants were turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Cecena was being held on $180,000 bail on suspicion of two counts of aggravated assault against an officer, 24 counts of reckless endangerment, 24 counts of human smuggling and several traffic offenses.
He has already served about six years in prison for attempted manslaughter, misconduct with weapons and aggravated assault, according to the Arizona Department of Corrections.
Charges against Hankins are pending his upcoming 18th birthday, police said.