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 was shouting that immigrants were invading the US, along with other offensive remarks, Monitor News reported. The Guardian reported a similar witness statement, and this was backed up later on Monday by other witnesses.
The majority of those injured and killed were initially believed to be 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.
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.
On Monday afternoon, at the shelter, Jesús Moreno, 35, from Venezuela, told the Guardian he was sitting on a bench outside, right across the street from the bus stop where the attack happened, when he saw everything unfold on Sunday.
After the initial shock of seeing the vehicle plow into the people, he said, he approached the scene. Others had already apprehended the man behind the wheel, demanding answers.
“He started saying he was the boss, questioning why so many migrants were here, in his territory,” Moreno said.
Alvarez’s insults, Moreno said, heated things and prompted those present to hit him.
“The only reason he was saved from a lynching was because the police arrived and arrested him,” Moreno said. “He murdered our people – but no one wants to be deported.”
The very hot and humid weather did not stop more fellow migrants and many locals from popping to the scene throughout Monday to quietly pay their respects or pray. Colorful flowers, crosses, and candles decorate the grass where the victims’ bodies laid yesterday.
“It’s a very, very tragic situation that happened,” Maldonado said. “It’s something the city of Brownsville had never experienced.”
Maldonado said all the victims were, indeed, Venezuelan migrants who were staying at the shelter. Some were going to the airport, others downtown to take a bus, but they were all headed to their US “final destination”.
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.
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