Owner of South Florida shop receives threats after immigrant girl found at business

Posted at 8:52 AM, Jul 31, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-31 12:48:43-04

HOMESTEAD, Fla. (AP) — The owner of a South Florida auto repair shop where federal authorities captured a runaway immigrant girl is receiving death threats from people who mistakenly believe he or his employees alerted police.

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The Miami Herald says their reporter witnessed 10 such calls within five minutes Monday at the Gonzalez Auto Center in Homestead. Other threats are being made on Facebook. The FBI is investigating and owner Francisco Gonzalez said he is now carrying a gun.

Federal authorities say the Honduran 15-year-old had been taken into custody at the Mexican border three weeks ago when she tried to enter the United States alone. She was taken to the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children, where about 1,200 children are being held.

She ran away Friday morning as shelter workers were taking her to a doctor's appointment, and ran into Gonzalez's nearby shop, where police later found her hiding behind a large tool box.

Gonzalez said neither he nor his workers called police. He said officers searching the area came into his shop and spotted her. Homestead police confirmed that account, saying someone near the shop had told officers she might be inside.

"We gave this girl water, offered her food; I treated her as my own daughter," Gonzalez told the newspaper. "I explained to her that the police want to 'make America great again' by uniting her with her family, but for that to happen, she needs to cooperate."

He added: "We live in a country with laws, laws I had to follow, even if it breaks my heart."

Homestead police Detective Fernando Morales said that if anyone who knew the girl's whereabouts had lied to officers, they would have committed a crime.

"If your child ran away and was hiding at her friend's house, and that friend's parents knew police was looking for her, and stayed quiet, or lied about the runaway's whereabouts, there's ground for the arrest of those parents for obstructing. This is the same situation," he told the Herald.