SAN ANTONIO - District Attorney Nico LaHood says he disagrees with the way SAPD Chief William McManus handled a December trafficking case. Chief McManus decided to keep the investigation local, turning down federal assistance.
LaHood will be prosecuting the case now and says that in the three years he's been DA, he has never dealt with a trafficking case involving immigrants. Because these cases involve federal immigration law and national security, they're usually handled at the federal level.
On December 23, a police officer came across a truck near Splashtown with 12 people inside. According to the police report, the people said that they were from Guatemala and later, when the driver was in custody, he admitted he picked them up from a warehouse in Laredo.
Herbert Nichols, 58, of Houston was arrested and charged with trafficking.
SAPD did not check for immigration papers, so there's no way to confirm the status of the people in the truck. Chief McManus has said repeatedly in the past that it is not SAPD's job to enforce federal immigration law.
The chief was at the scene of the incident in December and decided not to hand the case over to the Department of Homeland Security. Instead, he wanted to handle it at the state level. That means the case goes to the Bexar County District Attorney.
On Friday, LaHood said that he doesn't think the way Chief McManus handled the case was the best idea.
"The feds have always handled these types of cases, so that's why I had questions on why this one and why now, and so we had a discussion about that. But I think, in the general terms, I think the feds are more equipped. This is what they do, so I think it's better for them to handle it," LaHood said.
Chief McManus says that he had no jurisdiction to detain the people inside of that truck so he handed them over to Catholic Charities and doesn't know where they are now. LaHood says that he hopes to track them down and use them as potential witnesses in the case he hopes to build against Nichols.
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