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'It was a crime against humanity' | San Antonio police chief describes human smuggling attempt that killed 51

"The scene was tragic beyond words," McManus said. "I don't understand how anyone could be so callous as to allow it happen and run from the scene."

SAN ANTONIO — San Antonio Police Chief William McManus is providing new insight on the scene his officers responded to in a human smuggling attempt that killed 51 people.  

The chief also discussed the hand-off to Homeland Security Investigators. McManus says, at first, it was a rescue mission.

"I mean it was a crime against humanity," he said.

For first responders, it was a rush to save lives while discovering death inside this tractor-trailer.

"The scene was tragic beyond words," McManus said. "I don't understand how anyone could be so callous as to allow it happen and run from the scene."

The chief said within nine minutes, officers were there with first responders on Quintana Road.

"The initial work for responding SAPD officers was trying to figure out how many folks we had alive along with EMS, and sorting the survivors from the deceased and trying to get them medical attention," he said.

McManus said before Homeland Security Investigators took over the investigation, officers arrested three suspects. One of them was caught in a field. 

Chief McManus said HSI took control within 30-to-40 minutes after they arrived. Since it is in the hands of the feds, the chief couldn't comment on the investigation now. However, he says SAPD did provide help.

"They asked our crime scene investigators to process the scene," he said.

San Antonio's major thoroughfares like I-35 make it easy for smugglers. These criminal organizations give migrants a false hope and promise they'll make it to the U.S. subjecting them to brutal conditions.

RELATED: Smuggling organizations making big profits, putting migrants at risk

"Once you are in there and they lock those doors your fate is kind of in the wind," the chief said.

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