Chase through Duval, Jim Wells counties ends in arrest of Premont man

Christopher Maher, Alice Echo-News Journal

A 20-minute high-speed pursuit through two counties resulted in the arrest of a 22-year-old Premont man and the seizure of more than 1,000 pounds of marijuana Friday.

Officers with the Central South Texas Criminal Investigation Unit attempted to initiate a traffic stop on a Chevrolet pickup truck shortly after 6 p.m. Friday at the intersection of Farm-to-Market Roads 1329 and 716, task force Cmdr. Romeo Ramirez said Monday.

The driver of the truck, which was traveling eastbound on Farm-to-Market Road 716, allegedly refused to stop and led officers on a pursuit continuing eastbound that reached speeds approaching 100-miles per hour.

Officers with the task force were joined in the pursuit by Duval County sheriff's deputies, investigators from the Duval County Attorney's office, the Department of Public Safety, and a Department of Public Safety helicopter.

As the pursuit entered Jim Wells County, deputies with the Jim Wells County Sheriff's Department also assisted.

The Chevrolet Pickup truck reportedly attempted to evade officers by traveling at a high rate of speed through several county roads, and eventually came to a stop only when the front passenger wheel came off the truck after the vehicle broke through several fences.

The driver of the vehicle, later identified as Juan Rafael Mata, 22, of Premont, exited the vehicle and attempted to hide in a brush-covered area, but officers on the ground were alerted to his position by the DPS helicopter. Mata was arrested a short time later without further incident, Ramirez said.

A search of the truck revealed 112 large bundles of marijuana, which filled the bed of the truck and the rear seat of the extended-cab pickup.

The total weight of the marijuana was 1,194 pounds, with an estimated street value of $500,000.

Mata was expected to be arraigned in federal court in Laredo today on federal charges of possession of marijuana more than 50 pounds, less than 2,000 pounds. Because of the large amount of marijuana, the case has been referred to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, Ramirez said.