Texas National Guard member shoots Mexican citizen working out across Rio Grande

ByUriel J. Garcia, The Texas Tribune, and Davis Winkie, Military Times
Tuesday, August 29, 2023

A National Guard member on duty at the Texas-Mexico border in El Paso fired across the Rio Grande, injuring a 37-year-old Mexican man in Ciudad Juárez on Saturday night, according to the Texas Military Department and Mexican news outlets.

"On the night of 26 August, a National Guard Servicemember assigned to Operation Lone Star discharged a weapon in a border-related incident," a spokesperson for the military department said in a statement. "The incident is under investigation. More information will be made available as the investigation progresses."

According to El Diario, a Spanish language newspaper in Juárez, Darwin José García of the southern Mexican state of Veracruz was practicing a sport on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande around 8:50 p.m. Saturday while a group of migrants were crossing the river. García said he then heard shots and realized he had been shot in the leg, the newspaper reported.

In December 2022, Gov. Greg Abbott sent state troopers and National Guard members to El Paso as part of Operation Lone Star, a multibillion-dollar state effort launched in 2021 to deter migrants from crossing the Rio Grande along the 1,200-mile Texas-Mexico border.

The military department didn't release any additional information. The U.S. Border Patrol, the Texas Department of Public Safety, and Abbott's office didn't immediately respond to emails from The Texas Tribune and the Military Times seeking comment on Monday.

The shooting happened near the Bridge of the Americas, which is close to a national park on the Mexican side. The man was treated by paramedics at the scene, transported to a Juárez hospital and was later released, according to La Verdad, a news outlet in the Mexican border city.

It's the second time that a Texas National Guard member has shot a civilian while deployed for Operation Lone Star, and the third known time that a soldier has fired their weapon while on duty at the border.

On Jan. 13, Spc. Angel Gallegos shot migrant Ricardo Rodriguez Nieto in the shoulder near Mission in the Rio Grande Valley. The soldier claimed he accidentally fired his service handgun while wrestling with Rodriguez Nieto, who denied touching Gallegos and said the shot was fired from the kitchen into the living room of an abandoned home. Other migrants who witnessed the shooting echoed Rodriguez Nieto's version of events when interviewed by Texas Rangers.

According to documents provided through an open records request, the Hidalgo County District Attorney declined to present the case to a grand jury, citing insufficient evidence and unclear jurisdiction.

A year earlier, in January 2022, a Texas Guard member used his M4 carbine to disable a Chrysler 300 sedan driven by a suspected smuggler in Laredo. The soldier told investigators that he fired his rifle into the car's engine after the driver, who was arrested after abandoning his vehicle, attempted to run over another Texas Guard member.

The Border Network for Human Rights, an El Paso-based immigrant rights group, condemned Saturday's shooting, calling for the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate.

"Here at the border, we can no longer withstand the violence and cruelty unleashed and demand immediate action from our federal and state governments. Enough is enough," Fernando Garcia, the group's executive director, said.

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