PINE VALLEY, Calif. -- A Mexican national was sentenced in federal court Friday to 2 1/2 years in prison for crashing through a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint in Pine Valley, severely injuring one agent before leading others on a wild high-speed chase through the East County highlands.
Jorge Garcia Osornio, 28, was illegally in the country and had two undocumented migrants lying on the floor of his vehicle when he approached the eastern San Diego County inspection station about 10:30 a.m. Nov. 14, according to prosecutors.
As he neared a line of cars slowly moving through the facility, Garcia suddenly made a U-turn and sped off, heading the wrong way on the freeway, court documents state. As one agent shouted at him to turn around, another activated his patrol vehicle's emergency lights and siren and gave chase.
Moments later, Garcia spun his car around again and headed back toward the checkpoint. The pursuing agent tried to force him to halt by stopping in the center of both westbound freeway lanes, but the fleeing suspect was able to squeeze past on the shoulder of the interstate.
Garcia then steered into a cordoned-off lane and blew through the checkpoint, in the process barely avoiding crashes with a parked Border Patrol vehicle and a civilian car.
The suspect's vehicle then struck a steel-framed stop sign in the middle of the freeway lanes, smashing it to pieces, according to prosecutors. A piece of the flying debris hit the station's primary inspection agent, who later compared the impact to being struck by a baseball bat.
Garcia proceeded to lead Border Patrol personnel on a brief pursuit at speeds reaching 100 mph. After fleeing along Interstate 8 for about four miles, he exited onto a surface street, where he ran a stop sign and crashed his car into a hillside. At that point, he made a failed attempt to escape on foot. Agents found him hiding in a nearby carport.
Garcia, a Michoacan, Mexico, resident who told officials he had expected to earn between $1,400 and $2,000 for illegally transporting the pair of migrants, ultimately pleaded guilty to human smuggling in the case.
The injured agent underwent hospital treatment for various ailments, including a gash to his face, a severe headache, blurry vision, bouts of vomiting, ringing in his ears and uncontrollable shaking, court documents state. He has not been able to return to work, officials said.
One of the people Garcia had been trying to sneak into the United States told authorities he had feared for his life during the pursuit.
"This defendant had no regard for the safety of his passengers, other drivers on the freeway or agents at the checkpoint," San Diego-area U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman said. "It's a miracle no one died in this incident. Smugglers operate in a world where immigrants are just dollar signs, not people."