NACOGDOCHES, Texas — The Nacogdoches County Sheriff's office conducted a traffic stop that took a turn no one saw coming.
On October 5 around 5:00 p.m., investigator Brandan Lovell pulled over a 2008 Nissan Passenger traveling on Highway 59 South for a traffic violation.
“He was driving slow in the left lane, impeding traffic and weaving in between lanes," Lovell said. "They may have not been paying attention ... possible intoxicated driver.”
Unknown to him at the time, there was a missing 14-year-old girl from Harrison County in the backseat.
Lovell said the driver, 23-year-old Justin Berezi, kept asking to get out of the car and seemed nervous.
“I could smell the strong odor of marijuana," Lovell said. "His actions concerned me for my safety on the traffic stop. He began to pray. I could hear him talking about ‘please help me through, I was driving good. Please help me on my driving. Please help me not to go to jail.’ And in that time I went ahead and called for system units.”
Authorities arrested Berezi, who had on an ankle monitor on and was wanted for an outstanding felony warrant for failing to appear in court on a family violence assault charge. They arrested the passenger as well, 23-year-old Idris Shidi, for misdemeanor possession of marijuana.
Berezi is being held in Nacogdoches County Jail waiting to be seen in court in Fort Bend County where his warrant was issued. Passenger Idris Shidi was released on a $2,500 bond.
The 14-year-old girl is back at home safe with family.
Sheriff Jason Bridges said parents need to be diligent about keeping tabs on who their kids connect with online.
To sum up the 30-45 minute traffic stop, investigators call this a crisis averted.
“We have no doubt that this girl was being human trafficked back to the Houston area and I praise the investigator for the work he did," Bridges said. "He saved this girl from a life that she may not ever realize, but she's getting a second chance and I certainly hope that she takes advantage of that.”
“The family understands that they could have never seen their daughter again," Lovell said.
The Nacogdoches County Sheriff’s Office is exploring trafficking charges in relation to the arrest but has not filed those charges yet.
If you suspect human trafficking or see any other suspicious activity, call the national human trafficking hotline 1-888-373- 7888