US sues driver after fatal accident near Texas

Adeyemi Adeyemi
Adeyemi Adeyemi

Global Courant 2023-05-08 22:25:58

Authorities in the United States have charged a man with eight counts of manslaughter after he drove his vehicle into a group of people outside a migrant shelter in Brownsville, Texas, near the border with Mexico.

At a press conference Monday, Brownsville Police Chief Felix Sauceda told reporters that the suspect, identified as George Alvarez, was trying to flee the scene after hitting 18 people with a sport utility vehicle (SUV) on Sunday morning.

At least eight people were killed in the incident, which Sauceda described as “a tragic event”.

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“The investigation found that the SUV ran a red light, lost control, flipped on its side and hit a total of 18 people,” said Sauceda, adding that authorities have not ruled out the possibility that the crash was intentional. .

The incident comes amid months of heated rhetoric around immigration and just days before a border restriction known as Title 42 expires, raising concerns about a possible influx of migrants and refugees on the US-Mexico border.

Sauceda said Monday that several of the victims were originally from Venezuela, adding that US authorities communicated with Venezuelan government officials about the incident. He confirmed that all the victims outside the shelter called the Ozanam Center were men.

“We mourn the victims in Brownsville, Texas, who were run over outside a migrant shelter where people from around the world seek asylum and safety,” said Oni Blair, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas.

“We understand that the motive is still under investigation,” Blair said in a statement on Sunday. She urged authorities to ensure that witnesses to Sunday’s incident can come forward without fear of retaliation or deportation.

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“This horrific event comes after weeks of escalating anti-immigrant policymaking by Texas politicians and as the Biden administration considers imposing a new asylum ban aimed at deterring, rather than welcoming, migrants seeking protection.”

An online video claiming to capture the crash shows a speeding SUV plowing into a line of people sitting on the side of a road. A second video appears to show the aftermath, with victims lying on the ground, some bloodied and writhing, others motionless.

Shelter director Victor Maldonado said the SUV pulled up to the curb, turned around and continued for about 60 yards. Some people walking on the sidewalk about 30 feet from the main group were also hit, Maldonado said.

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Maldonado said the center had not received any threats before the crash, but it did afterward. “I had some people come by the gate and tell the guard that the reason this happened was because of us,” he said.

Luis Herrera, a witness whose arm was injured in the incident, told AFP news agency the crash was “sudden”.

“A woman drove past in a car and warned us to get out of the way,” said the 36-year-old Venezuelan national. “It was a matter of moments. The killer came (by) in the car, gesturing at us, insulting us.

Sauceda, the police chief, said Monday the suspect — who faces 10 counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, among others — had an extensive criminal history and was held on $3.6 million bail.

Brownsville is one of several U.S. border towns expected to see an increase in asylum seekers when Title 42 expires Thursday.

The policy, which has been criticized by rights groups since it was first invoked in March 2020, enabled U.S. border officials to swiftly turn away most people seeking protection at the border.

The surge in asylum seekers over the past week prompted Brownsville commissioners to extend an emergency declaration indefinitely at a special meeting last Thursday.

“We don’t want them wandering outside,” Pedro Cardenas, a city commissioner, said of the asylum seekers on Sunday after the crash. “So we try to make sure they’re as comfortable as possible so they don’t have to go out and look elsewhere.”

A vigil will be held Monday night at the Texas State Capitol in Austin “to honor the memory of the lives lost in Brownsville and demand an end to policies that dehumanize immigrants.”

Rochelle Garza, president of the Texas Civil Rights Project, an advocacy group, said in a statement Sunday: “I hope today serves as a wake-up call and that state officials will begin to invest in a humanitarian response that could have helped the people. who were affected by this morning’s tragedy.”

In a statement on Monday, the Venezuelan government called for an investigation into whether it was a crime of hate and xenophobia.

US sues driver after fatal accident near Texas

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