The hit-and-run victims were waiting for a bus to get back to downtown Brownsville after spending the night at a sleepover.
BROWNSVILLE, Texas – Police have identified the man accused of driving his car into a crowd of migrants waiting for a bus Sunday outside a shelter in a Texas border town, and prosecutors have charged him with 18 counts, including eight counts of involuntary manslaughter. , in connection with a fatal accident.
Police said 34-year-old George Alvarez was the driver of the vehicle involved in the crash. Brownsville Police Chief Felix Saucedo told reporters at a news conference Monday that Alvarez had a big “rap sheet” before the incident.
“The SUV ran a red light, lost control, overturned on its side (and crashed into the crowd),” Saucedo said.
Saucedo said investigators have not determined whether Alvarez intended to hit the people waiting for the bus.
He was charged with eight counts of involuntary manslaughter and ten counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, Souceda confirmed, adding that charges could be changed or added as the investigation continues. Alvarez received bonds totaling $3.6 million.
Toxicology reports are pending on Alvarez, and Saucedo declined to comment on whether he appeared intoxicated after the incident.
He confirmed reports that Alvarez allegedly tried to flee the scene after his SUV overturned. But several people nearby held Alvarez down until police arrived.
Eight people were killed and at least 10 others were injured, police said.
Lacking a bench at the city’s benchless bus stop, some of the victims were sitting on the side of the road around 8:30 a.m. when the driver hit them, surveillance video from the Bishop Enrique San Pedro Ozanam Center showed. Brownsville Police Investigator Martin Sandoval, who confirmed the latest death Sunday night, said police do not know if the collision was intentional.
Shelter director Victor Maldonado said the SUV hit a curb, overturned and continued for about 200 feet (60 meters). Some people walking on the sidewalk about 30 feet (9 meters) away from the main group were also hurt, Maldonado said. Witnesses apprehended the driver as he tried to flee and held him until police arrived, he said.
“This SUV, a Range Rover, just went through the light, which was about 100 feet (30 meters) and just went through people who were sitting at the bus stop,” said Maldonado, who reviewed surveillance video at the shelter.
The hit-and-run victims were waiting for a bus to return to downtown Brownsville after spending the night at the overnight shelter, said Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley.
Most of the victims were Venezuelan, Maldonado said. Brownsville saw A surge in migrants from Venezuela over the past two weeks for reasons that are unclear, authorities said. As of Thursday, 4,000 of the roughly 6,000 migrants in the custody of border guards in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley were Venezuelans.
The driver was taken to the hospital with injuries sustained when the vehicle rolled over, Sandoval said. There were no passengers in the car and police did not immediately have the driver’s name or age, Sandoval said Sunday afternoon.
Sandoval said there are three possible explanations for the collision: “It could be intoxication; it could be an accident; or it may be on purpose. In order to find out what exactly happened, we have to eliminate the other two.
“He is very uncooperative at the hospital, but he will be transferred to our city jail as soon as he is released,” Sandoval said. “Then we will take his fingerprints and (take) a photograph, and then we will be able to find his true identity.”
Police took a blood sample and sent it to a Texas Department of Public Safety lab to test for alcohol intoxication.
A surge in migrant numbers this week prompted Brownsville commissioners to indefinitely extend the state of emergency during a special meeting Thursday.
“We don’t want them roaming the streets,” Pedro Cardenas, a city commissioner, said Sunday after the crash. “So we’re trying to make sure they’re as comfortable as possible so they don’t have to go out and look elsewhere.”
Brownsville has long been the epicenter of migration across the US-Mexico border, and it’s a key point of interest next week ending the pandemic-era border restrictions known as Section 42. The Ozanam shelter is the only overnight shelter in the city and manages the release of thousands of migrants from federal custody.
Maldonado said the center had not received any threats before the disaster, but had responded afterward.
“Several people came to the gate and told the security guard that it happened because of us,” Maldonado said.
About 2,500 migrants have crossed the river to Brownsville daily in the past few days, Cardenas said. He said the Border Patrol is aware of the city’s capacity for 1,000 processing sites near the checkpoint and a downtown building where city staff and volunteers direct migrants how to buy bus or plane tickets to their final destination. The city is considering expanding services to meet the needs in the coming days, Cardenas said.
While 80% of people released from custody leave the same day, a city emergency management official said, a bottleneck has developed over the past few days.
“Most of the people who meet don’t want to stay in Brownsville, but we don’t have enough buses for them to buy a ticket to leave,” Cardenas said. “Some are expecting family members.”
The Ozanam shelter can accommodate 250 people, but many of those who arrive leave the same day. Over the past few weeks, Mr rise at border crossings prompted the city to declare a state of emergency as local, state and federal resources coordinated law enforcement and humanitarian efforts.
“For the last two months, we’ve been getting 250 to 380 a day,” Maldonado said.
Although the shelter offers transport to migrants during the week, they also use the city’s public transport.
Rochelle Garza, president of the Texas Civil Rights Project, said in a statement released Sunday afternoon: “I hope that today will serve as a wake-up call and that public officials will begin to invest in humanitarian aid that can help the people affected. affected by this morning’s tragedy.”
U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez said Sunday that local officials are talking to the federal government about the disaster.
“We are all very sad and heartbroken by such a tragedy in our area,” he said.
Valerie Gonzalez reported from McAllen, Texas. Travis Lawler contributed to this report from Nashville, Tennessee.