MCALLEN, Texas (TheBlaze/AP) — Three people were found wounded, two fatally, in a vehicle that was fired upon by a Texas state trooper in a helicopter. Those in the vehicle were suspected of being — or carrying — illegal immigrants.
The incident happened Thursday afternoon near the South Texas border with Mexico near the town of La Joya (HOY’-yah), about 70 miles northwest of Brownsville. The Monitor has more about how the event unfolded:
The pursuit began after a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department game warden tried to pull over a vehicle suspected of smuggling immigrants Thursday afternoon along FM 2221.
A DPS helicopter was called in to assist in the pursuit and a sharpshooter opened fire on the evading vehicle — a policy permitted by the agency, two law enforcement sources not authorized to comment on the investigation said.
DPS troopers are the only law enforcement in the Rio Grande Valley region permitted to open fire during chases.
Various agencies — Border Patrol, La Joya police, Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office — were present at the desolate, rural area alongside DPS well into the night. Authorities set up blockades at least a mile out from the scene.
After dark, a red pickup truck with no apparent damage — except a blown, rear driver’s-side tire — was towed away from the area where police were working.
Katherine Cesinger (SEHS’-ihn-jur) of the Texas Department of Public Safety says a DPS aircraft was helping a state game warden in a high-speed pursuit when the DPS officer on the aircraft opened fire.
“We do not want to speculate on any other issues at this time and have no further information,” Cesinger wrote in an e-mail following the incident.
She says two people from the vehicle died, one was injured and six others were arrested. She called the shooting “an enforcement action” but declined to say whether police caused the deaths and injuries. She says the Texas Rangers are investigating and no other information was available.
Questions surround why deadly force was used during the chase, specifically considering that at least one source claims the men weren’t armed.
“This is going to get big really, really fast. You have a law enforcement official shooting at an unarmed alien,” explained one local law enforcement source. “This is not an excuse for deadly force.”
An investigation is ongoing.