14 migrants detained after boat rams sheriff's office marine vessel, takes off

Published: Aug. 25, 2023 at 11:35 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 25, 2023 at 11:53 AM EDT
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Fourteen migrants have been detained after a boat they were in rammed into a Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office Marine Unit vessel just east of Jupiter Inlet on Friday morning, and then took off.

The sheriff's office said a PBSO Marine Unit deputy came across the migrants' boat just after 9 a.m. One of the migrants is Bahamian and 13 others are Haitian, according to U.S. Board Patrol Chief Agent Walter N. Slosar.

The captain of the boat, identified as Bazaeluis Francois, 30, suddenly rammed into the Marine Unit's vessel, damaging two engines, before taking off.

A sheriff's office helicopter and additional marine units pursued the migrants' boat, which Francois eventually beached just north of the Juno Beach Pier, the sheriff's office said.

Beachgoers said people onboard quickly jumped off the boat.

"There was a couple with a small baby, a toddler. One man had jumped offshore pretty far off and was kinda getting washed onshore," Steve Sargent said. "I thought he was drowning, so me and another man kinda helped pull him out of the water. Once the police got here, they apprehended him."

A suspected migrant boat beached just north of the Juno Beach Pier on Aug. 25, 2023.
A suspected migrant boat beached just north of the Juno Beach Pier on Aug. 25, 2023.

Francois was immediately taken into custody and arrested on two counts of aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer.

The migrants in U.S. Customs and Border Patrol custody will be processed and repatriated, the sheriff's office said.

Special agents with the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) West Palm Beach office are investigating. Anyone with information about this incident, or human smuggling and cross-border illegal activity, should report it to HSI at 1-866-347-2423.

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