Gabriel Salazar, a 19-year-old TikTok star, died on Sept. 26 in a fiery car crash on Route 83 in Zavala County, Texas. Three other men died with him. Reports raise the possibility that he was smuggling illegal immigrants at the time.
Salazar, known in social media as Gabenotbabe, had apparently just brought three Mexican nationals across the border illegally, and was fleeing from police, in his white 2014 Chevy Camaro heading north on U.S. 83 at the time of the crash.
They were right. Salazar is a San Antonio resident but the accident was actually about 100 miles outside of San Antonio, about 50 miles north of the Texas/Mexico border, and due south of Uvalde.
On Wednesday, Sept. 29, the Zavala County Sheriff’s Office reported via its Facebook page: “In reference to the motor vehicle accident that occurred on Sunday September 26, 2021, we have been notified by Homeland Security Investigations that 3 out of the 4 males that died as a result of the accident were identified as illegal immigrants from Mexico.”
Salazar was in his white 2014 Chevrolet Camaro. Police tried to pull him over at about 1:20 AM. The three undocumented Mexican nationals wre: Luiz Jimenez Mora (41), Jose Molina-Lara (23)m and Sergio Espinoza-Flores (36).
At one point the authorities tried to stop Salazar using a tire deflation device. That was unsuccessful.
In the end, Gabriel Salazar’s car left the road in one direction and he apparently over-corrected, so that the car then crossed the road in the other direction, and struck trees on the west barrow ditch, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.
It rolled over several times, the gas tank punctured, and the car caught fire.
Gabriel Salazar had more than 2 million followers on TikTok. He entertained them with videos of himself dancing and lip syncing. He had roughly another three quarters of a million followers on Instagram.
Was Gabriel Salazar Smuggling Illegal Immigrants?
This tragedy, a very personal one of course for Salazar’s friends and family, may now feed into the ongoing political debate in the United states over illegal immigration, and in the sort of human smuggling in which Salazar may have been involved.
One anonymous law enforcement official close to the investigation told the Houston Chronicle, “Yeah, it’s a smuggling situation is what it looks like. We’ve had smuggling crashes in Del Rio and by Eagle Pass, Uvalde, but the majority are there in Carrizo and Crystal City, along (Highway) 83 all the way down to Ashton.”
Some on social media are blaming authorities for the chase. It still is unclear what the exact reason for the police chase was.
A tweet from a fan and admirer of Gabriel Salazar reads: “That’s going to be some lawsuit that the family [brings] against the police department that used a device during a high speed chase to shoot out the tire on his car and wound up killing him and three others.”
Paying Tribute to the TikTok Star
A friend of Salazar’s, Chris Vazquez, established a GoFundMe page for a memorial, and to help support Salazar’s family through the funeral expenses and the time off from their work.
Vazquez writes that Salazar loved his family and was “always horsing around with” his sister and little brother.
“He was always there with a big hug and smile,” the tribute continues, “and his family will never forget those warm moments.”
Vazquez’s GoFundMe quickly raised more than $35 thousand dollars before Vazquez disabled further donations.