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At least three shot in apparent human smuggling operation, police say

(HOUSTON) — At least three people were shot in Houston on Wednesday during what police described as a human smuggling operation.

Officers from the Houston Police Department were dispatched to an IHOP restaurant on West Sam Houston Parkway in the Westchase neighborhood of the Texas metropolis at around 11:30 a.m. local time, after receiving at 911 call about a shooting. Upon arrival, the officers found two men — one of whom had been shot in the arm — who “told them that they had escaped from a human smuggling situation at a nearby hotel,” according to Houston Police Commander Jonathan Halliday.

“While speaking to the victims, they told us that the shooting happened earlier in the morning approximately two hours west of here, in the greater San Antonio area, but the exact location is not known,” Halliday said during a press conference Wednesday. “We believe they were being smuggled and they were brought to this area after the shooting occurred.”

The pair had escaped the hotel room and ran to the nearby IHOP, where they called 911 for help. They were both taken to a local hospital, though only one was wounded, according to Halliday.

Two other men, who also escaped after being shot in the arm and leg, fled the scene and later showed up at a local hospital for treatment, but it was not immediately clear how they got there, Halliday said.

All three gunshot victims — each of them male and approximately 30 to 40 years old — were hospitalized in stable condition and are expected to survive. There were initial reports of a fourth gunshot victim, but so far police have been unable to confirm that information or locate the individual, according to Halliday.

“We continue to check hospitals for anyone else that might be connected to this incident,” he told reporters. “At this point, we believe one of the three people shot may possibly be one of our suspects but final determination hasn’t been made yet.”

Officers stopped two vehicles that were leaving the hotel and detained the occupants — a total of nine people, all adult males, according to Halliday, who added that “we’re not sure which of them are victims and which are possible suspects at this time.”

Police believe the victims were being held in the hotel room since they were brought there sometime on Wednesday morning. Officers cleared the room, with no one else found inside, according to Halliday.

The identities of all those involved have not been released and Halliday said their nationalities were not yet known.

“I don’t know where they were coming from or where they were going,” he told reporters.

No charges had been filed as of Wednesday, but Halliday noted that the investigation is still in the “very early” stages.

Halliday said there is “no public safety threat” and that police are not actively searching for any additional suspects at this time.

Investigators from the Houston Police Department remain at the scene, while agents from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security were en route Wednesday, according to Halliday.

“We’ll be interviewing all the parties detained with our HPD detectives, with the Homeland Security agents to try and, you know, figure everything out, determine who’s suspects, who are victims and get them the appropriate resources,” he added.

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