Texas: police name suspect after eight killed by truck plowing into crowd
first published on May 8, by the Guardian, article by Gloria Oladipo
Authorities have publicly identified the driver accused of killing several people after plowing his truck into a crowd that was waiting at a bus stop near a shelter serving migrants in a south Texas city.
During a Monday morning news conference, police accused George Alvarez of killing eight people and injuring 10 others about 8.30am on Sunday in Brownsville.
Police added that Alvarez was a Brownsville resident and had an “extensive” prior criminal record, including allegations of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and driving while intoxicated.
Police also said that Alvarez attempted to leave the scene, but he was held down by several people until police arrived and arrested him.
A local judge set bond for Alvarez at $3.6m. He was initially booked with reckless driving but faces additional charges, including manslaughter.
Police have maintained that they have not determined whether Alvarez acted intentionally and have been unable to verify reports from witnesses that the driver was shouting anti-immigrant obscenities at the time of the crash.
A Venezuelan migrant who escaped the crash said the driver, who killed eight people and injured 10, was shouting that immigrants were invading the US, along with other offensive remarks, Monitor News reported. The Guardian reported a similar witness statement.
The majority of those injured and killed were Venezuelan, and police have confirmed that they were all men.
The crash occurred outside an overnight shelter in Brownsville, Texas, which is near the state’s border with Mexico. The city’s only overnight shelter hosts unhoused people and migrants and has been at capacity for two months.
Several people died at the scene, said authorities, with the eighth victim dying on Sunday night.
According to surveillance video of the crash, the driver of the SUV ran a light and plowed into the waiting crowd at the bus stop.
“What we see in the video is that this SUV, a Range Rover, just ran the light that was about a hundred feet away and just went through the people who were sitting there in the bus stop,” the shelter’s director, Victor Maldonado, told the media.
As of Monday morning, the driver’s identity has not been released by authorities. Officials obtained a blood sample of the driver to check for possible intoxicants, but the results of those tests have also not been released, police said on Monday.
Alvarez was reportedly being uncooperative and provided different names to authorities, delaying the public release of his identity, police said.
The truck killings came four days before Title 42 was set to expire. Title 42 was a Covid-era policy that allowed for the expulsion of migrants.
Days before the crash, the US homeland security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, said that immigration authorities faced “extremely challenging” circumstances along the border with Mexico days as Title 42 is set to end.
Eight dead in Texas after car drives into crowd outside migrant center
first published May 8, by the Guardian, article by Maya Yang
Eight people have been killed and 10 others were injured after a car plowed into a crowd outside a shelter serving migrants and homeless people in Brownsville, Texas, on Sunday, and investigators believe it may have been intentional, according to authorities.
The car careened into the crowd of people who were sitting on the curb at a bus stop near the Ozanam Center at about 8.30am, the police department in Brownsville, which is near Texas’s border with Mexico, said. That came four days before the scheduled expiration of Title 42, the Covid-19 era policy that allows border patrol agents to swiftly expel migrants at the US’s southern border.
The shelter director, Victor Maldonado, told the Associated Press that upon reviewing the shelter’s surveillance footage, he saw an SUV run a light and plow into the crowd of people who were at the bus stop. The majority of those who were injured or killed were Venezuelan men.
“What we see in the video is that this SUV, a Range Rover, just ran the light that was about a hundred feet away and just went through the people who were sitting there in the bus stop,” Maldonado said.
Police lieutenant Martin Sandoval told the news outlet Valley Central that seven victims died at the scene, and several others were rushed to nearby hospitals. The toll was updated to eight after another victim died on Sunday night.
Video footage posted online showed crowds of people at the scene while clothes and other personal items were strewn all over the road. Several people appeared to be tending to an individual who was lying on a grassy area.
Sandoval said the driver was arrested and booked on a count of reckless driving. More charges are likely to be filed in what officers suspect may have been an intentional act, Sandoval added.
“It can be three factors,” Sandoval told the Associated Press. “It could be intoxication; it could be an accident; or it could be intentional. In order for us to find out exactly what happened, we have to eliminate the other two.”
He added that the driver was transported to a nearby hospital for injuries he sustained after the car rolled over and that no passengers were with him.
“He’s being very uncooperative at the hospital, but he will be transported to our city jail as soon as he gets released,” said Sandoval, adding that the detained driver had given officers several different names. “Then we’ll fingerprint him and [take a] mug shot, and then we can find his true identity.”
Police have also obtained a blood sample from the driver and have submitted it to be tested for possible intoxicants.
The Ozanam Center is the only overnight shelter in Brownsville and manages the release of thousands of migrants from federal custody, and it offers free transportation for migrants.
“In the last two months, we’ve been getting 250 to 380 a day,” Maldonado told the Associated Press, adding that even though the shelter can hold up to 250 migrants, many who arrive also leave on the same day.
“Some of them were on the way to the bus station, because they were on their way to their destination,” he said.
Two days earlier, the US homeland security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, said that immigration authorities faced “extremely challenging” circumstances along the border with Mexico days before the end of asylum restrictions implemented through Title 42 during the Covid-19 pandemic.
A surge of Venezuelan migrants through south Texas, particularly in and around the border community of Brownsville, has occurred over the last two weeks for reasons that Mayorkas said were unclear.
On Thursday, 4,000 of about 6,000 migrants in border patrol custody in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley were Venezuelan.