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After he rescued 12 people from a hot locked box and a life of human trafficking, a Houston police office is being called a hero AP Photo/Astrid Galv'n
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer Rachel McCormick, left, and Mexican customs officer Alejandra Galindo demonstrate how they would jointly inspect a cargo truck carrying goods from Mexico into the U.S. while at the Mariposa Inspection Facility at the Nogales Port of Entry in Arizona. Officials say the new program allowing Mexican officials to work with their U.S. counterparts has already reduced wait times by more than 75 percent. (AP Photo/Astrid Galv'n)

An alert Houston police officer is being called a hero he saved the lives of 12 people trapped in a hot, locked box truck in Sharpstown Sunday afternoon.

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Officer Chris Meade was canvassing a strip mall’s parking lot, when he heard people — 10 men, one woman and a 16-year-old girl — banging on the walls of the unventilated truck.

With no food and a dwindling water supply, the officer managed to remove the lock in time and save the people who were trapped inside for about 12 hours.

“Thirty more minutes, and this could have been a dozen homicide cases,” Tom Berg, Harris County First Assistant District Attorney, told the Houston Chronicle.

Meade said the Penske truck looked “out of place” in the parking lot, which tipped off the officer.

The three suspects — Priscila Perez Beltran, 21, Nelson Cortes Garcia, 27, and Adela Alvarez, 26 — each face two counts of human smuggling likely to cause injury or death and one count of human smuggling involving a minor.

They were arrested by Meade and other officers after attempting to flee.

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The 12 people, who reportedly paid to be smuggled into the U.S. from various Latin American countries, will be detained here until a trial is set.

Anna Caplan contributes to Rare Houston and Rare Animals. 
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