Texas Trooper Kills Guatemalan Immigrants in Aerial Shooting

A Texas trooper says he was unaware the truck was carrying passengers. But the Guatemalan Consul doesn't believe any of it.

By Jorge Rivas Oct 30, 2012

A Guatemalan diplomat says she doesn’t understand how a Texas Department of Public Safety airborne sharpshooter could just shoot at truck carrying nine Guatemalan immigrants. Texas officials say the sharpshooter that was on a helicopter was only trying to disable the vehicle and was unaware that the truck was carrying any passengers.

Alba Caceres, Guatemala’s consul in McAllen, Texas says she interviewed seven of surviving passengers that were on the truck and that all of them were in "agreement that the helicopter was 450 to 600 feet away" when the trooper fired. She told the Associated Press Monday she couldn’t understand how the troopers could fire on a vehicle without seeing people stuffed into the cabin and bed. "Neither you nor I believe it," she said.

The Rio Grande Valley’s TheMonitor.com has more details:

The Guatemalan consul here says two countrymen who were killed by an airborne DPS sharpshooter last week have been identified as family men who were seeking a better life for their children back home. […] Both men — who hail from San Martin Jolitepeque, Chimaltenango, Guatemala — were with a group of seven others riding a red Ford pickup that was being chased Thursday afternoon by Texas game wardens, state troopers and other law enforcement officers. A Department of Public Safety helicopter joined the chase as the truck traveled near the intersection of Farm-to-Market Road 2221 and Mile 7, north of La Joya.

Caceres identified the two men killed as Jose Leonardo Coj and Marco Antonio Castro.

Geoffrey Alpert, a University of South Carolina professor of criminology and an expert on police chases, told the Associated Press the trooper’s decision to fire on the truck was "a reckless act" that served "no legitimate law enforcement purpose."

"In 25 years following police pursuits," Alpert said, "I hadn’t seen a situation where an officer shot a speeding vehicle from a helicopter."

The Texas Department of Public Safety has placed the trooper on leave following the shooting. The Monitor reports the agency said the sharpshooter opened fire thinking that the chased pickup truck was carrying drugs — not people.