Border Patrol officers shot and killed the driver of a car carrying unauthorized immigrants in Laredo, Texas on Friday after the car overturned an officer and cornered him against another vehicle , according to US Customs and Border Protection.
The meeting took place at around 9:40 p.m. local time when border patrol officers, working with Immigration and Customs officials and officials from the Webb County Constable’s Office, responded to a report of a possible human trafficking, the agency said.
Officers found a trailer truck carrying people suspected of having crossed the border illegally. Officers had started investigating the arrival of another car, also carrying immigrants who allegedly entered the country illegally, officials said.
Border patrol officers and officials from Homeland Security Investigations, part of the ICE, identified themselves as the car approached, officials said.
But the driver “suddenly accelerated in reverse,” pinning a border patrol officer and a person he had questioned from another vehicle, the United States Customs and Border Protection said in a report. communicated.
The driver did not respond to orders to stop and “officers deployed lethal force to stop the threat,” the statement said.
The driver, who was not identified by name, died at the scene. The border patrol officer, injured in the leg, was taken to hospital and then released.
Two people who were also in the car were injured, according to Matthew Hudak, chief patrol officer of the Laredo sector of the border patrol. One was taken to hospital and released, and the other remained hospitalized on Saturday night, he said.
Mr Hudak said the encounter was an example of “aggressive tactics used by smugglers”. He said he was grateful that the officer and the other two injured people suffered only minor injuries.
“Unfortunately there was a loss of life in this incident, but the officers did what they needed to do to protect their colleague and to protect the suspect who was being questioned,” he said in a recorded statement on Facebook.
The Laredo Police Department and the FBI were among the agencies investigating the shooting, officials said. Laredo Police and the Webb County Constable’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday evening. A spokeswoman for the FBI’s field office in San Antonio confirmed on Sunday that the office was participating in the investigation.
Since January 2010, at least 111 people have died following encounters with border officials, according to the Southern Border Communities Coalition, a critical group of the Border Patrol that has documented information on these cases.
Excluding the fatal meeting in Laredo on Friday, at least 11 of those deaths – some of which involved crashes after high-speed chases with the border patrol – have occurred this year, according to the group.
In 2013, a report commissioned by Customs and Border Protection on the use of lethal force by its officers and agents revealed a number of concerns, particularly in cases where officers had fired at vehicles and people throwing stones and other objects at officers.
The report looked at 15 cases in which customs and border protection officers shot at vehicles and concluded that some of the shootings could have been avoided.
“It is suspected that in many instances of vehicle fire, the targeted driver attempted to flee from officers who intentionally entered the vehicle’s exit lane, thereby exposing himself to additional risk and justifying the use of force. murderous, ”the report says.
The report, written by the Police Executive Research Forum, a nonprofit group that supports law enforcement with research and technical advice, recommended policy changes designed to prevent officers from shooting vehicles.
He recommended that officers be trained to “avoid obstructing oncoming vehicles rather than intentionally taking a position in the path of these vehicles.”
Customs and border protection said they made changes in response to the report. In 2014, a ministry directive clarified that officers could use lethal force if a moving vehicle was directed at them or others, but not if the vehicle leaked. The agency also ordered border officials not to get in the path of a moving vehicle.