SAN DIEGO — A convicted smuggler was sentenced to more than three years in prison Wednesday for a high-speed chase in San Diego County that left four U.S. Border Patrol agents hurt, officials said.
Juan Francisco Sanchez-Campos had 10 undocumented passengers in his vehicle when he sped through an immigration checkpoint on state Route 94 near Jamul last year, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. He later rammed multiple vehicles that tried to stop him, the DOJ said.
The February 2021 incident left four Border Patrol agents with serious injuries that necessitated “ongoing medical treatment,” according to prosecutors. Despite “jeopardizing the lives” of the 10 people he was trying to sneak into the country, none of the driver’s passengers were hurt.
Sanchez-Campos, from Mexico, pleaded guilty last June to a variety of charges related to human smuggling, fleeing immigration officials and assaulting a federal agent. He was sentenced in federal court Wednesday to 41 months in prison.
During the trial, prosecutors said Sanchez-Campos slowed down as he approached the rural San Diego County checkpoint before suddenly gunning it, “narrowly missing several Border Patrol agents” and heading down the highway, weaving in and out of traffic at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour.
Agents say Sanchez-Campos rammed four agents’ vehicles during his attempt to flee. He was stopped using a “box-in” maneuver about 10 minutes into the chase.
In court, U.S. District Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo said the smuggler showed complete disregard for the lives of the agents and his passengers.
“He cared nothing about other motorists, Border Patrol agents or even the people in his vehicle. All he wanted was his payday – a day that will never come, thanks to the brave Border Patrol agents who made sure this defendant was stopped,” Bencivengo said.
USBP has been involved in several high-profile chases with drivers in recent years, some of which have ended in serious injuries or death. Last December, 13 people were hurt in a crash after agents chased a pickup driver who crammed a dozen people into the bed of their truck. Later that month, one person was killed and three others were hurt in another high-speed chase.
Border Patrol’s tactics in pursuits and tendency to chase after drivers who won’t stop for them has faced scrutiny in recent years. A 2019 investigation by the Los Angeles Times and ProPublica found that border chases ended in crashes every nine days on average between 2015 and 2018.