New Mexico teen facing charges following deadly border crash

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A man accused of smuggling immigrants into New Mexico will eventually head back to Luna County to face charges.

While fleeing Border Patrol last month, 19-year-old Elton Gastelum crashed his SUV. Two of the immigrants inside were killed.

Gastelum was also injured in the crash and transported to Lubbock, Texas. That’s where he was eventually booked into jail. A Luna County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said Gastelum waived extradition this week.

In mid-September, Border Patrol agents said Gastelum was smuggling immigrants. According to court documents, agents said his SUV circumvented a Border Patrol checkpoint outside of Deming, New Mexico.

When they tried to stop him, Gastelum allegedly lost control of his car. It flipped and caught fire. According to federal documents, six people were ejected from the vehicle, and four others were rescued from inside. At last check, two of those migrants were killed.

According to the documents, immigrants inside the car told agents, prior to the crash, they waited three to four hours at the highway for the smugglers to pick them up.

One immigrant told the agents they would pay $9,000 – another was supposed to pay $8,000 – to be smuggled into the country.

Agents said Gastelum was taken to Lubbock for his injuries. He was later booked into jail but is now in the process of being extradited back to New Mexico to face both state and federal charges.

Gastelum is out of Albuquerque. There’s not much to show, in terms of criminal background, in the publicly accessible online court database. But Gastelum was mentioned in a police report in March after a high school teen was shot and paralyzed at a house party.

The District Attorney’s Office said Gastelum never turned into a suspect in that case:

“While Elton Gastelum is referenced in documents related to this case, when it was submitted to our office it did not include a viable case against Gastelum. However, it did include a viable case against Joseph Zamora and we filed charges accordingly.”