Sign up for The Brief, The Texas Tribune’s daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.
This article is co-published and co-reported with Military Times, an independent news organization reporting on issues important to the U.S. military. Sign up for its daily Early Bird Brief newsletter here.
A National Guard member on duty at the Texas-Mexico border in El Paso, who fired across the Rio Grande, injuring a 37-year-old Mexican man in Ciudad Juárez a week ago, has been placed on paid administrative leave, the Texas Military Department confirmed on Friday.
"The service member has been placed on paid administrative leave until the conclusion of the investigation," a spokesperson for the military department said in an email on Friday.
Mexico's Foreign Ministry said in a Wednesday night statement, that the National Guard member who shot "has been separated from his position until the investigation has concluded." The statement added that the Consulate General of Mexico in El Paso has met with senior officials from the Texas Department of Public Safety, which is now investigating the shooting.
“During the [Wednesday] meeting, the Mexican authorities reiterated that the Texas National Guard member's action was inadmissible,” the statement said. “They also expressed their concern about the impact on the human rights and safety and integrity of migrants.”
On Thursday, The Texas Tribune asked officials with DPS and the Texas Military Department, which oversees the National Guard, to confirm the Mexican official's statement. Neither agency responded to that request.
Earlier this week, the military department confirmed the shooting, but didn't release any other information, such as the identity of the National Guard member or the reason why the member shot his weapon.
“On the night of 26 August, a National Guard Servicemember assigned to Operation Lone Star discharged a weapon in a border-related incident,” a spokesperson for the military department said in a statement. “The incident is under investigation. More information will be made available as the investigation progresses.”
According to El Diario, a Spanish language newspaper in Juárez, Darwin José García of the southern Mexican state of Veracruz initially told police he was a migrant attempting to cross into the United States. But the man later told reporters he was practicing a sport on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande around 8:50 p.m. Saturday while a group of migrants were crossing the river, according to the newspaper. García said he then heard shots and realized he had been shot in the leg, the newspaper reported.
In December, Gov. Greg Abbott sent state troopers and National Guard members to El Paso as part of Operation Lone Star, a multibillion-dollar state effort launched in 2021 to deter migrants from crossing the Rio Grande along the 1,200-mile Texas-Mexico border.
DPS confirmed in an email Monday that troopers responded to a call of a shooting Saturday night involving a National Guard soldier along the Texas-Mexico border in West Texas. DPS said the incident is now under investigation by the Texas Rangers and that no additional information is available.
The U.S. Border Patrol referred all questions to DPS. Abbott's office declined to comment, referring all questions to the Texas Military Department.
The shooting happened near the Bridge of the Americas, which is close to a national park on the Mexican side. The man was treated by paramedics at the scene, transported to a Juárez hospital and was later released, according to La Verdad, a news outlet in the Mexican border city.
It’s the second time that a Texas National Guard member has shot a civilian while deployed for Operation Lone Star, and the third known time that a soldier has fired their weapon while on duty at the border.
On Jan. 13, Spc. Angel Gallegos shot migrant Ricardo Rodriguez Nieto in the shoulder near Mission in the Rio Grande Valley. The soldier claimed he accidentally fired his service handgun while wrestling with Rodriguez Nieto, who denied touching Gallegos and said the shot was fired from the kitchen into the living room of an abandoned home. Other migrants who witnessed the shooting echoed Rodriguez Nieto’s version of events when interviewed by Texas Rangers.
According to documents provided through an open records request, the Hidalgo County District Attorney declined to present the case to a grand jury, citing insufficient evidence and unclear jurisdiction.
A year earlier in January 2022, a Texas Guard member used his M4 carbine to disable a Chrysler 300 sedan driven by a suspected smuggler in Laredo. The soldier told investigators that he fired his rifle into the car’s engine after the driver, who was arrested after abandoning his vehicle, attempted to run over another Texas Guard member.
The Border Network for Human Rights, an El Paso-based immigrant rights group, condemned Saturday’s shooting, calling for the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate.
“Here at the border, we can no longer withstand the violence and cruelty unleashed and demand immediate action from our federal and state governments. Enough is enough,” said Fernando Garcia, the group’s executive director.
The full program is now LIVE for the 2023 Texas Tribune Festival, happening Sept. 21-23 in Austin. Explore the program featuring more than 100 unforgettable conversations coming to TribFest. Panel topics include the biggest 2024 races and what’s ahead, how big cities in Texas and around the country are changing, the integrity of upcoming elections and so much more. See the full program.