AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — One of two Texas brothers who authorities say opened fire on a group of migrants fetching water near the U.S.-Mexico border, killing one and injuring another, was a guard at a detention center allegedly abuse.
The shooting occurred Tuesday in Hudspeth County, about 90 miles (145 kilometers) from El Paso, according to court documents filed Thursday. A man was killed. a woman was taken to an El Paso hospital where she is recovering from a gunshot wound to her stomach, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.
DPS said the victims were among a group of migrants standing by the road drinking water from a tank when a truck with two men inside pulled up. According to court documents, the group had hidden as the truck first drove past to avoid detection, but then the truck backed up. The driver then exited the vehicle and fired two shots at the group.
Witnesses to the group told federal agents that shortly before they heard the shots, they heard one of the two men in the vehicle yelling derogatory terms at them and revving the engine, according to court documents.
Authorities tracked down the truck by checking cameras and found a vehicle matching the description given by the immigrants, according to court records.
Michael Sheppard and Mark Sheppard, both 60, were charged with involuntary manslaughter, according to court documents. Court records do not list attorneys for either man. No contact information was found for them or their representatives and attempts to reach them for comment after their arrest were unsuccessful.
Records show Michael Sheppard was a guard at the West Texas Detention Facility, a privately owned facility that housed immigrant detainees. A spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement told The Associated Press that no ICE detainers have been held at that detention center since October 2019, after a larger detention facility opened nearby.
Scott Sutterfield, a spokesman for operator Lasalle Corrections, responded to an AP email asking if Sheppard had been fired as warden. Satterfield said the warden was fired “due to an off-duty incident unrelated to his employment.” Satterfield declined further comment, citing the “ongoing criminal investigation.”
A 2018 report by the University of Texas and Texas A&M Immigration Law Clinics and the immigration advocacy group RAICES cited multiple allegations of physical and verbal abuse against African immigrants at the facility. According to the report, the warden “was involved in three of the inmate reports of verbal threats, as well as incidents of physical assault.” The commander mentioned in the report was not named.
But Texas Rep. Lloyd Doggett, a Democrat, said at a news conference Saturday that Shepard was actually the security guard at the facility at the time of the allegations and when the report was published. According to information provided by Doggett’s office, the website of Louisiana-based LaSalle Corrections listed Sheppard as an employee in West Texas since 2015.
Doggett, along with other Texas Democratic lawmakers, called Saturday for a federal investigation into the shooting.
“The dehumanization, the devaluing of people seeking refuge in this country, many of whom are people of color, is what has contributed to the violence we’re seeing here,” Doggett said.
In an account detailed in the report, one immigrant told lawyers that the guard punched him in the face while he was at the nurse’s station, and when he went to medics they said they “didn’t see anything.”
“I was then placed in solitary confinement where I was forced to lie face down on the floor with my hands tied behind my back while being repeatedly kicked in the ribs by the guard,” said a migrant referred to as Dalmar in the report. .
Attorneys filed a civil rights complaint about the allegations that year, but according to a response letter sent to attorneys in 2021, the Homeland Security Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties conducted an on-site investigation, made several recommendations to ICE, but did not find evidence of “any incidents of excessive use of force” or “incidents of illegal segregation” and found that some uses of force were appropriate.
Fatma Marouf, co-author of the report and director of the Immigrant Rights Clinic at Texas A&M, said it was difficult for authorities to follow up on the allegations because many of those interviewed for the report were deported shortly afterward.
Marouf said current views on immigration enforcement based on keeping people out at all costs have “spinned out of control”.
“We don’t see people as people anymore,” Marouf said.
The number of Venezuelans taken into U.S.-Mexico custody soared in August, while fewer migrants from Mexico and some Central American countries were stopped, officials said earlier this month. Overall, US authorities stopped immigrants 203,598 times in August, up 1.8% from 199,976 times in July, but down 4.7% from 213,593 times in August 2021.
Silky Shah, executive director of the advocacy group Detention Watch Network, said that’s also a problem with the current rhetoric around immigration, including the use of terms like “invasion” by GOP leaders including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and inaction by federal officials to move. away from the previous administration’s immigration policies that fueled this sentiment.
“I think there’s no question that there’s a reason that prompts actions like this,” Shah said.
Associated Press writers Elliot Spagat and Paul Weber contributed to this report.
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