FBI investigating fatal shooting of immigrants near Mexico border
Jan. 23, 2013 at 11 p.m.
MCALLEN (AP) - A letter sent from the Texas Department of Public Safety to the state Attorney General on Wednesday confirms that the FBI is investigating a state trooper's fatal shooting of two Guatemalan immigrants.
The letter, which was copied to The Associated Press, came in response to a public records request for documents related to the state investigation of the Oct. 25 shooting near La Joya.
The incident began with a chase after Texas Parks and Wildlife game wardens spotted a red pickup near La Joya and the U.S.-Mexico border, about 250 miles south of San Antonio. The wardens requested help, and the DPS helicopter joined midway in the 14-mile, high-speed pursuit of what authorities said they believed was a "typical covered drug load."
A trooper fired from the helicopter to disable the vehicle, and it crashed into a ditch. Two illegal immigrants died, and a third was injured. Authorities said the wounded immigrants were among six hiding under a blanket in the truck's bed.
In the days following the incident, civil rights groups and the Guatemalan government expressed concerns that DPS was essentially investigating itself since the Texas Rangers, who were leading the investigation, fall under the DPS umbrella. A week after the incident, DPS Director Steve McCraw said he had asked the FBI and the U.S. Justice Department's Civil Rights Division to investigate and would turn over the Texas Rangers' report.
The FBI had declined to confirm or deny such an investigation. But in one of several arguments DPS made to withhold the documents, Wednesday's letter states "a criminal investigation into the above-referenced incident is ongoing and the Federal Bureau of Investigation is also involved in the investigation at this time."
The case is expected to go to a Hidalgo County grand jury in February, District Attorney Rene Guerra said Wednesday. Last week, Guerra said he received the Texas Rangers investigative report and was awaiting final ballistics results before taking it to a grand jury.
A letter from DPS to the AP - accompanied by the letter to the Texas Attorney General - said that the requested documents were included among documents obtained through a grand jury subpoena and are "in the constructive possession of the grand jury."