A Houston kidnapping tip has led to a huge investigation into what could be a human smuggling case. Houston, TX police responded to a 911 call Friday, and when they arrived at the scene they discovered there were 90 people living in one house.
The Houston homicide division worked through the night Thursday after being made aware of an apparent kidnapping. Investigators located the Houston home. After being granted a search warrant, a SWAT team gained entry. The case quickly turned into a human smuggling investigation and was handed off to HSI investigators.
Houston Police Chief Daryn Edwards confirmed that investigators are identifying it as human smuggling. “I don’t know if they were going to parcel them off in doing some work or labor,” Edwards said Friday. “It is definitely more of a smuggling thing.”
According to an ABC 13 report, several of the individuals found tested positive for Covid-19, and police conducted a series of rapid tests to identify any further cases. The 90 people were stuffed into the small, two-bedroom home for an unidentified amount of time, and many claimed they couldn’t smell or taste – a clear sign of the coronavirus.
Edwards described the scene in a news conference Friday, saying that the people “were all huddled together, split between two rooms, wearing basic clothing, and were not tied up.”
With Covid-19 still a prevalent risk to society, the scene at the Houston home was “a big surprise,” Edwards said. The individuals were confirmed to be migrants smuggled into the United States, and they told the police they were extremely hungry.
There were no signs of children, according to a report, and only five were women. The rest of the 90 migrants were identified as male. The police have taken note of the mistreatment of the migrants, but have not identified a suspect.
Asst. HPD Chief Patricia Cantu said that “anytime you see people being mistreated, it doesn’t matter what race, culture, where you come from … there’s no excuse for people to be mistreated like that. Not being fed, not given the basic, common needs, not being allowed to use the bathroom. I didn’t want to focus on immigration. I didn’t want to focus on legality because that was not the main issue.”
The homeowner has not been identified as a suspect. She interviewed with Eyewitness News off camera and claimed that she did not know what happened, admitting that she was merely renting the space. She boarded up the house on Friday, describing the scene inside as a mess. She told the reporter that she plans to sort things out shortly.
The Houston sting was one of several cases of human smuggling discovered in Texas within a matter of days. On Wednesday alone, four houses were raided in connection with human smuggling. Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol agents found 52 migrants in total. On Thursday, another 27 people were found in an Edinburg home.