A deadly shooting along in south Texas is to be reviewed by federal investigators. State officials made the announcement Friday, ironically right after winning an award for border enforcement.
DPS Director Steve McCraw, Friday morning, was all smiles as he received an international award for a border enforcement operation called Drawbridge. Images captured from the more than 4,000 border incidents were prominently displayed during the ceremony. But later McCraw took a more serious tone as he announced federal officials will help investigate last week's fatal border shooting.
"Texas Rangers will turn over its complete investigative file to the FBI and Justice Dept. including the video and audio tapes of this incident," said DPS Director Steve McCraw.
Civil rights advocates like Jim Harrington with the Texas Civil Rights Project called for an outside investigation on Thursday.
"And I'm glad that it is happening because we need someone from the outside of the agency, DPS, to do the investigation," said Harrington.
The shooting happened October 25, in Hidalgo County. A map diagram created by DPS tracks the chase of a truck that appeared to be loaded with drugs the back bed covered with a tarp. About six miles into the chase, a DPS helicopter flew in, as the truck approached an elementary school, with children at the time, still heading home for the day. Shots were fired to disable the truck at the 12 mile mark and then more were fired two miles down the road. As authorities moved in- drugs were not found, instead nearly a dozen illegal immigrants had been hiding under the tarp, and two were dead.
The Hidalgo Co. DA has called on DPS to suspend the use of deadly force by airborne Troopers. State officials say the policy is under review but it will not be stopped at this time. Border enforcement operations are inherently dangerous. It's not uncommon for gun fire to erupt; But Herrington does not believe the situation last week needed to escalate.
"Yeah it's still a bad call to shoot. Because at that point the people in the helicopter had the advantage. Right? They can call the other police in that town they can call the school to tell them to get the kids out of the way," said Harrington who added, "There are plenty of alternatives."
The trooper who fired the shots is identified as Miguel Avila. He is a 10 year veteran who has spent the past two years in air operations. He has completed 34 hours of specialized aviation training plus eight hours of tactical firearms training.
"It's important that we provide the public with facts as there have been many who are providing speculative commentary and opinions about this case, most of which have no basis in fact which is not only counter-productive but irresponsible," said Director McCraw.
The federal investigation will take place while a local grand jury also reviews the shooting. The video from the helicopter will not be made public until all the investigations are over.