PCSO: Two high-speed pursuits lead to discovery of marijuana, Mesa stash house

Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Border Patrol, Arizona Department of Public Safety and Gila River Police units were involved in two pursuits that led to two arrests and the discovery of a stash house in Mesa on March 4, according to a PCSO press release.

The first pursuit began at approximately 5:36 a.m., when deputies attempted to stop a white Chevrolet pickup truck traveling eastbound on Interstate 8 near Stanfield for traffic violations. The driver of the truck failed to stop, began traveling at a high rate of speed, crossed the median and the westbound lanes of the interstate and began traveling across county land until the occupants attempted jumping an irrigation canal, which disabled the vehicle. Approximately 10 individuals fled, of which nine were taken into custody and turned over to U.S. Border Patrol agents.

“From information developed from those involved in the first pursuit, DPS and Pinal County sheriff’s deputies were provided information that led to not only a second pursuit that reached speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour, the occupants throwing bales of marijuana from the vehicle, spike strips, a short foot pursuit, resulted in the arrest of two men on multiple counts and but also the discovery of a stash house in Mesa,” Jim Knupp, public information officer for PCSO, said in the release.

The second pursuit started at approximately 11:45 a.m. March 4 when a PCSO deputy monitoring traffic along I-8, near Trekell Road in Casa Grande, noticed a 2006 white Trailblazer traveling at a much higher rate of speed than the other vehicles on the roadway around it.

The deputy entered onto I-8 and attempted to catch up with the vehicle to little avail. The Trailblazer entered onto Interstate 10 in Casa Grande and continued traveling westbound at a high rate of speed. When the deputy caught up with the vehicle, he attempted to perform a traffic stop near mile marker 195 on I-10. The vehicle began to accelerate to speeds in excess of 100 mph and the occupants began to throw bales of marijuana out of the vehicle onto the roadway, according to the release.

Multiple DPS and PCSO units then became engaged in the pursuit and the PCSO helicopter was also overhead.

The vehicle exited the interstate at McCartney Road in Casa Grande, traveled eastbound toward Overfield Road and onto the campus of Central Arizona College. Once on campus, the vehicle turned around and turned eastbound onto Woodruff Road. PCSO deputies working in front of the pursuit set up spike strips and deflated both front tires of the Trailblazer, according to the release.

With flat front tires, the vehicle continued for a short time but turned on Val Vista Road and came to a stop. Both occupants, later identified as Mario Perez-Paz (43 of Mexico) and Juan Aguilar-Zavala (21 of unknown residence), led deputies on a short foot pursuit but were taken into custody. During their interviews, the men indicated they were offered $1,000 by a female in Phoenix to drive the Trailblazer to I-8 to pick up unknown packages.

Juan Aguilar-Zavala, 21. (Photo courtesy of PCSO)

Juan Aguilar-Zavala, 21. (Photo courtesy of PCSO)

Mario Perez-Paz, 43 of Mexico. (Photo courtesy of PCSO)

Mario Perez-Paz, 43 of Mexico. (Photo courtesy of PCSO)

During the entire length of the pursuit, bales of marijuana were being thrown from the vehicle onto I-10. Four or five vehicles not involved with the transportation of the marijuana even stopped and grabbed bales, which neither deputies nor DPS were able to recover due to traffic conditions, according to the press release.

“These foreign drug smugglers try to outrun our deputies and even throw bales of marijuana from their vehicle. We caught these criminals who put our deputies and our local citizens in harm’s way and now they will go to prison for their crimes,” PCSO Sheriff Paul Babeu said in the release.

In total, approximately 374 pounds of marijuana were recovered, which was entered into evidence, according to the release.

Both men were booked into the Pinal County Sheriff’s Jail on possession of marijuana, possession of marijuana for sale, transportation of marijuana for sale, conspiracy to transport marijuana for sale and unlawful flight.

From the information developed from the first pursuit, Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials were able to determine the intended destination of the suspected smugglers and marijuana was a stash house in Mesa, where authorities discovered 20 people illegally in the country from Guatemala and Mexico, according to the release.

“This further proves that not only drugs like methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin are being smuggled into America by way of Arizona, but scores of illegals from Central America have never stopped,” Sheriff Babeu said in the release. “Meanwhile, President Obama continues to violate U.S. immigration law and instead prioritizes the needs and concerns of illegals ahead of American citizens. This further undermines the rule of law and our current immigration process that currently allows more foreigners to lawfully immigrate into America every year than every other nation combined.”

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