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Several agencies stop human smuggling attempt at Sebastian Inlet

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — A group of Haitian migrants – along with two Brevard County captains – were in federal custody after local, state and federal agencies blocked a human smuggling attempt Thursday night. The 24 undocumented Haitains, and boat captains, were detained at the Sebastian Inlet and turned over to the U.S. Coast Guard, said Sgt. Kevin Jaworski, a spokesperson with the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office.

“The captains of the boat were trying to smuggle the Haitians into the country,” Jaworski said.

The incident led to a multi-agency response, including the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office marine unit, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, U.S. Border Patrol, Homeland Security Investigations and the U.S. Coast Guard.

The smuggling attempt came three days before Haiti’s government declared a 72-hour state of emergency and a nighttime curfew amid a surge in violence over the weekend. Armed gang members raided two of Haiti’s largest prisons and freed thousands of inmates, leading to reports of deadly gunfire, according to media reports.

The sheriff’s office on Friday released body camera and helicopter footage Haitian citizens traveling on a vessel through the Sebastian Inlet. The one-minute footage shows law enforcement officials pulling up to the boat and using flashlights in the dark.

The Haitian citizens included men, women and children, Jaworski said. Indian River County Fire Rescue did precautionary health checks for everyone on the boat before they were handed over to federal authorities.

“Human smuggling through our open borders continues to be a massive issue not just in Texas and other land border states, but also our waterways,” Indian River County Sheriff Eric Flowers said. “The Indian River County Sheriff’s Office and our partners are committed to protecting our country, state and nation from would-be illegal border crossings any way we can.”


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