CASA GRANDE — A high-speed chase of a suspected human smuggler went through downtown Casa Grande on Monday afternoon before ending on Interstate 10 on the Gila River Indian Community.
The driver is in custody after fleeing from an immigration checkpoint on the Tohono O’odham Nation. Department of Public Safety officials say the driver allegedly fired shots at Border Patrol officers before the chase began about 3 p.m.
DPS says the suspect was arrested and nobody was injured in the chase that went for about 50 miles.
The name of the suspect wasn’t immediately released.
A Border Patrol agent said in a text that four agents were working the checkpoint south of Casa Grande when a “silver Ford Taurus came up with a guy filled with prison tattoos.”
The primary agent asked the driver for consent to look in the trunk.
When the trunk was popped, agents discovered it contained illegal migrants. That’s when the driver sped off, but not before one of the agents was able to slam the trunk shut.
Five miles into the chase, the smuggler started firing out the window at Border Patrol vehicles in pursuit as it headed north to Casa Grande. It isn’t clear if the migrants were still in the trunk during the chase.
A parade of law enforcement vehicles joined in the pursuit. The chase went west on Jimmie Kerr Boulevard, onto Second Street and eventually north on Pinal Avenue with speeds in excess of 90 mph in the city.
On the northern edge of the city, the suspect avoided tire deflation devices placed by DPS troopers by driving the wrong way in the southbound lanes of Pinal Avenue on two occasions.
The suspect’s vehicle came back around at one point and headed south in Casa Grande before cutting through the Fry’s parking lot, going off-road and back northbound onto Pinal Avenue.
As the chase continued, the suspect again drove the wrong way — north in the southbound lanes — and finally got onto Interstate 10 westbound and headed toward Phoenix.
Agencies involved in the chase through Casa Grande included the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, DPS, U.S. Border Patrol and the Casa Grande Police Department.
The chase ended on I-10 south of Phoenix shortly after 3:30 p.m.
According to the Gila River Police Department, the pursuit involving DPS ended at milepost 174, near Casa Blanca Road.
ADOT reported a “rolling closure” of the freeway in both directions because of the law enforcement incident. Also, Sacaton Middle School went on lockdown at the same time, but it isn’t clear if that was because of the chase.