House Democrats Want Hearing After Fatal DPS Shooting

Texas Department of Public Safety patch worn on uniform during graduation ceremony in Austin, Texas April 7th, 2011
Texas Department of Public Safety patch worn on uniform during graduation ceremony in Austin, Texas April 7th, 2011

A pair of House Democrats are asking to convene an emergency hearing on Texas Department of Public Safety policies in light of the fatal shooting of two Guatemalan nationals last week.

In a letter to state Rep. Sid Miller, R-Stephenville, the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety; House Speaker Joe Straus; and DPS Director Steve McCraw, Reps. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, and Armando Walle, D-Houston, ask for immediate attention to the fatal shooting in La Joya, Texas.

On Oct. 25, a sniper from a DPS helicopter fatally shot two immigrants and injured another. The helicopter was assisting Texas game wardens as they attempted to pull over a truck with immigrants thought to have been in the country illegally. DPS officials have said that the truck posed an immediate danger and that the sniper was attempting to disable the vehicle when the immigrants were killed. The law officers also thought the truck was loaded with drugs. According to The Associated Press, no drugs were found in the truck.

In their letter, the Democratic lawmakers said the incident merited "appropriate and immediate legislative attention.”

They added that officers on the scene have been quoted as telling authorities there were no weapons found in the truck and that DPS is the lone agency in the Rio Grande Valley that allows officers to fire on a vehicle to stop it.

“Other bodies do not even allow vehicles with passengers to be fired upon under any circumstances,” the lawmakers continued. They are asking specifically for a review on the officers’ conduct and DPS policies on firing at moving vehicles.

The letter follows an announcement Tuesday by Hidalgo County District Attorney Rene Guerra, who said he would take the case to a grand jury for investigation, according to the AP. State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, the chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, said MALC is considering reaching out to local officials to assess the situation to determine what role the caucus could play in the investigation.

The South Texas Civil Rights Project also become involved Thursday when it asked the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division to launch an investigation into the shooting, citing “too many discrepancies and inconsistencies” in the department’s account.

“Particularly troubling is that DPS justifies this use of force, even though virtually no law enforcement use-of-force policy anywhere in the country would justify this kind of callous killing,” wrote James C. Harrington, the advocacy group’s director.

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