UPDATED: Pilot who crashed plane outside Presidio arrested on human smuggling charges 

Photo courtesy of Joel Nuñez/Presidio County Sheriff’s Office. A plane crash north of Presidio airport left five wounded and the pilot at large in the aftermath of a human smuggling operation.

UPDATE: Following press time, more information regarding this case was made available through public court records. Peters made his initial appearance in federal court in Alpine on Wednesday before Judge David B. Fannin, and a preliminary hearing has been set for April 11. The court unsealed a criminal complaint that had been filed on January 4, based on the sworn affidavit of Task Force Officer Coleman Boring of Homeland Security Investigations, which states that one of the five undocumented Mexican immigrants injured in the plane crash was so severely injured that she was life-flighted to a hospital. Per the complaint, one of the passengers that had been on the plane identified Peters as the pilot when shown a series of photos by the Presidio County Sheriff’s Office, and said Peters had fled the plane with a cell phone, handheld radios, paperwork, and what appeared to be a gun. Peters is accused of “transportation of illegal aliens” and “transportation of illegal aliens causing serious bodily injury.” Peters has retained two lawyers, Antonio M. Rodriguez and Monty Wayne Kimball, both of whom declined to comment.

A basic information sheet on the arrest provided by the Presidio County Sheriff’s Office states Peters was apprehended at the Presidio Port of Entry and that his bond had been set at $188,000. Per court records, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas has filed a motion to detain Peters without bond.

PRESIDIO COUNTY — On March 25, the Presidio County Sheriff’s Office arrested Tobias Penner Peters of Seminole, Texas, on multiple charges, including three counts of human smuggling, one count of evading arrest, and one count of deadly conduct. The arrest ended a three-month long manhunt after Peters crashed a plane with undocumented migrants onboard just past the Presidio-Lely Airport on December 30.

An eyewitness saw the plane crash from Highway 67, and rushed to help first responders render aid to the plane’s five passengers, undocumented migrants who were found in the desert near the scene in various states of distress. The Presidio County Sheriff’s Office speculated that the plane crashed because it had been deliberately under-fueled to counter the weight of those onboard — the plane, a Piper Cherokee 235 registered to Henry Neufeld of Seminole — only seats four. 

Peters fled the scene, and remained at large until his arrest. Per court records, he is currently being held at Presidio County Jail as he awaits the filing of federal charges and an initial court appearance. On April 4, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Alpine filed a motion to issue a writ of habeas corpus requesting that the sheriff’s office “surrender and deliver” Peters to a U.S. Marshal for his first appearance in federal court as soon as possible. The court order was issued the following day. After his initial court appearance, Peters will continue being held at the county jail. 

The Presidio County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to requests for comment, nor did they fulfill a public records request for arrest documents by press time.