After the remains of four individuals, including an infant and an adolescent, were discovered in Canada near the US border in what officials say was a failed crossing attempt during a frigid blizzard, a Florida man was charged with human smuggling on Thursday.
Following the discovery of seven Indian nationals in the United States and the discovery of their bodies, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota charged Steve Shand, 47, with people smuggling.
According to court documents filed in support of Shand’s arrest on Wednesday, one of the individuals spent a large amount of money to enter Canada on a forged student visa.
In court filings, John Stanley, a special agent with Homeland Security Investigations, stated, “The investigation into the deaths of the four victims in Canada is ongoing, as is an inquiry into a broader human smuggling organization of which Shand is accused of being a part.”
On Wednesday, a US Border Patrol agent in North Dakota halted a 15-passenger van just south of the Canadian border, according to records. Shand was driving and, according to court documents, he was accompanied by two undocumented Indian nationals.
Five other people were spotted by law officers in the snow close about the same time, according to court filings. Officers learned that the group, which included Indian nationals, had been trekking outside in subzero temperatures for more than 11 hours.
As she was being carried to the hospital, a woman stopped breathing numerous times. Her hand will need to be partially amputated, according to court filings. A man was also admitted to the hospital with frostbite but was later released.
One of the men in the group was toting a rucksack stuffed with baby items. According to court documents, he said it belonged to a family who had become separated from the rest of the group overnight.
When Mounties were notified that the family might still be in Manitoba, Assistant Commissioner Jane McClatchy told a news conference in Winnipeg on Thursday that officers immediately began searching the area.
She said cops discovered three bodies together — a man, a woman, and a baby — barely 10 meters from the border near Emerson, Man., after a long search in practically impassable terrain. A teen boy was discovered a short distance away while the search continued. They are thought to have died as a result of the exposure.
“It’s a complete and devastating catastrophe,” said McClatchy.
She claimed that they were dressed in winter attire, but that it would not have been enough to keep them warm in the frigid temperatures.
“These victims were confronted not only with the cold, but also with long fields, massive snowdrifts, and full darkness,” McClatchy continued.
Shand was taken into custody on Wednesday and is still being held. Shand is accused of being involved in other border crossings by American police, according to court filings.
Shand could not be reached for comment right away.
Crossings from the United States into Canada are more common, according to officials in both nations. Following the election of former US President Donald Trump, the number of people crossing the border into Canada on foot surged in 2016.
After getting stuck in a blizzard while trekking from the United States into Manitoba that December, two guys lost their fingers to severe frostbite. A woman died of hypothermia near the American side of the border a few months later.
A pregnant woman who ventured across the border in 2019 was rescued after becoming stranded in a snowdrift and giving birth.
Reeve, Emerson-Franklin Illegal crossings, according to Dave Carlson, have decreased dramatically in recent years. He was taken aback to learn
“When you consider the political climate on both sides of the border, it’s mind-boggling to me that someone would feel compelled to try to cross under such dire circumstances.”
The Kittson County Sheriff’s Office in Minnesota’s Deputy Patrick Flagstad says his department is assisting the American side of the investigation. Every day, its officers patrol the “desolate” wide areas near the border, he said, adding that the region where individuals cross is dangerous, especially in the cold.
“The million-dollar question would be why they chose that location to travel.”
Flagstad, echoing Canadian officials, said it’s rare for someone to make the perilous voyage from Canada to the United States. “We don’t get south bounders very often.”