A reported kidnapping turned into something much more after the Houston Police Department (HPD) found more than 90 people inside a southwest Houston home Friday afternoon.
Police say they executed a search warrant after receiving a tip about a potential kidnapping Thursday night. Upon entering the home, a SWAT team found the large group huddled together, prompting HPD to reclassify the case.
Authorities say they believe the case to be a human smuggling operation, and do not believe the captives were being trafficked.
At a media briefing outside of the home, HPD Assistant Chief Daryn Edwards said that some of the people exhibited COVID-like symptoms, such as lack of smell and taste. Edwards said that rapid COVID-19 tests would be administered.
Edwards added that no minors were found inside the house, and that the group consisted mostly of men.
In a statement to Houston Public Media, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirmed that the case would be handled by an investigative branch of the agency.
“Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is working with the Houston Police Department to investigate the suspected stash house,” the statement read.
The case is among several in the Houston-area that have occurred in the past few months, including one late last year that involved nearly 30 captives.