Truck driver accused of kidnapping Mexican migrant and threatening to “hang his body from a bridge”
Arizona trucker accused of kidnapping an undocumented migrant trying to clear his way from the US-Mexico border into Pennsylvania, then tormenting his captive with an AR-15 replica, a stun gun and a knife, while threatening to “go into the wilderness to die, and kill him and hang his body from a bridge” unless he finds $ 30,000, according to federal court records reviewed by The Daily Beast.
After four days, the hostage, named in an affidavit as Mexican national Jose Jaime Garcia-Escamilla, succeeded in informing workers of his fate in the high desert motel where he was being held hostage, and begged them to ‘to call the police.
Asylum seekers and other undocumented migrants have long told horrific stories of their own experiences of being taken hostage by human smugglers while their families are extorted for ransoms. Some are physically abused on their journeys north, others raped, robbed or even killed. Few of the perpetrators would end up being brought to justice for their crimes.
Garcia-Escamilla’s heartbreaking ordeal began on the evening of November 30, when he and five others scaled a border fence near Douglas, Ariz., And began walking through the Sonoran Desert. Along the way, three other members of the group fell behind their guide and got lost, according to Garcia-Escamilla’s travel account.
A little later, Garcia-Escamilla and another person making the dangerous cross-border journey were picked up by a white truck and taken to a house 30 minutes away. They were then stashed in a small room adjoining the property to hide, according to a criminal complaint filed in the case.
The next day, a “chubby man with pepper and salt hair” identified as Clifford Lee Tanner, 44, drove up in a gray Dodge Durango and drove the couple to Phoenix, according to the complaint. Upon their arrival, Tanner met someone in a white van, “and a dispute over payment ensued.” Tanner then “retrieved a black AR-15 pistol from under the driver’s seat and pointed it at the driver of the white van before wandering off erratically,” as Garcia-Escamilla and the second migrant sat in the rear, according to the complaint. .
Shortly after, the driver met a relative of the second migrant, who handed him an envelope of cash, the complaint continues. Tanner then traveled to California, where the second man was dropped off. Tanner informed Garcia-Escamilla that he would take her to his destination in Pennsylvania for $ 9,000. But when Garcia-Escamilla hesitated, Tanner drove him to Tucson instead.
According to the complaint, Tanner “continually threatened [Garcia-Escamilla] violently and said things to him as if he would abandon her, let him die in the desert, kill him and hang his body on a bridge. Tanner also “continually tormented [Garcia-Escamilla] with a stun gun and a knife, ”the complaint states. When Tanner then stopped at a gas station, Garcia-Escamilla tried unsuccessfully to escape. But Garcia-Escamilla returned to the SUV after Tanner pointed the AR-15 at his chest and threatened to kill him, according to the complaint.
Apparently enraged, the complaint states that Tanner raised the price of freedom for Garcia-Escamilla, telling him that “he can forget to go to Pennsylvania”, that the cost of his release would now be $ 30,000 and that Garcia -Escamilla “worked for [Tanner] now.”
Tanner went to a local Travelodge and rented two rooms for the night, the complaint says. He told Garcia-Escamilla to take a shower and sleep while Tanner made himself comfortable nearby.
The next day a hotel employee knocked on Garcia-Escamilla’s door and told him it was time to leave. It was then that a terrified Garcia-Escamilla asked the worker to call the police and tell them he was being held against his will, the complaint explains. Officers arrived shortly after and transported Garcia-Escamilla to a border patrol station nearby.
As Garcia-Escamilla recounted his story to officers, another Border Patrol unit visited Travelodge to investigate. They spotted a gray Durango in the parking lot, and after Garcia-Escamilla identified Tanner as the man who kidnapped him, Tanner was arrested.
In an interview with the Border Patrol, Tanner claimed he was “tasked with retrieving four” near Douglas “on December 1. He said he made the trip at 4 a.m. this morning- there and that he had used vision device to locate his passengers.
“He said he had only found two and felt sorry for them because they were frozen and in poor condition,” the complaint said. “Tanner said he didn’t know what happened to the other two, if they stayed in the desert or if they froze to death.
Tanner claimed he never threatened Garcia-Escamilla except “for one moment when the ‘kid’ looked scared and told him to ‘sit down’,” according to the filing. “Tanner denied pointing the gun at [Garcia-Escamilla] but admitted that [Garcia-Escamilla] knew he had it.
When Border Patrol officers searched Tanner’s vehicle, they found an ultra-realistic .177 caliber AR-15 style pellet gun under the driver’s seat, along with what the complaint describes as “a pistol. functional cripple, receipts for money transfers to California in December. 1, 2021, and a notebook with handwritten names, dates, dollar amounts and notes compatible with smuggling or transporting undocumented non-citizens.
Tanner then confessed that he had worked for the same “aliens trafficking organization” before, telling officers his first job for the group was to collect payment for “30,000 to 40,000 pills” from someone. one on the south side of Tucson and send the money to Nogales. , Mexico.
In court, prosecutors argued against Tanner’s bail, citing “his long criminal record.”
“The accused’s criminal history began in 1996 and, with the exception of periods of incarceration, continued almost without interruption until August 2019, when he was released from his last stint in the Department of Arizona Corrections, “says a government detention petition filed on Dec. 13. “The defendant has at least thirteen convictions for misdemeanor and nine convictions for felony … [S]in his 30s, the accused has committed new crimes on seven occasions in just six years, including convictions related to drug possession, theft of transportation, trafficking in stolen goods, misconduct involving weapons , drug trafficking, assault and multiple appearance failures.
Aside from one incident in 2007, Tanner, who had worked as a truck driver but whose business license had since expired, “committed every new crime while on probation or supervised release,” according to the motion.
Tanner, who claimed he and his girlfriend were expecting a baby, was charged on December 29 with charges of transporting illegal aliens for profit and conspiring to transport illegal aliens for profit.
In a motion of their own, Tanner’s public defenders Elena M. Kay and Angeles Rodriguez-Madera said Tanner “intends to fight the charges and would like to clear his name.”
Kay and Rodriguez-Madera did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment, and Tanner – who remains in jail, court records show – could not be reached. If convicted, Tanner faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.