An unidentified SUV driver struck a crowd of people who were waiting for a bus in Brownsville, Texas, on Sunday morning, killing eight and injuring at least 10 others. Seven pedestrians were announced dead at the scene, and one died in the hospital due to injuries after a gray Land Rover Ranger Rover SUV drove into the crowd at a bus stop near a migrant shelter in the Texas border town.
UPDATE [Monday, May 8, 2023, 03:00 PM ET]:
The Brownsville Police Department held a press conference on Monday identifying the driver of the Range Rover as George Alvarez, a Brownsville local with several prior convictions. Alvarez has now been charged with eight counts of manslaugter and ten counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
Local police had help from the FBI during the investigation, but it’s still unclear what Alvarez’s motives were. The police had no comment on whether this was a hate crime or connected with the origin of the migrants, and the department is still pending toxicology reports to determine Alvarez’s sobriety at the time of the incident.
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The incident occurred at 8:30 a.m., by which time a group of pedestrians had gathered at the bus stop, including migrants from the nearby Ozanam Center, which temporarily houses people from Central America who are making their way further north into the U.S. from the border city of Brownsville, Texas.
The city bus stop is unmarked, and there are no benches to sit on while waiting for public transportation, according to local news outlet CBS4. Some of the migrants were sitting on the curb of the intersection when the SUV slammed into the group.
Survivors say the driver of the Range Rover, George Alvarez, had been gesturing and insulting the migrants who were waiting at the bus stop as he crashed into the group, per CBS4, adding that Alvarez ran through a red light before jumping the curb and crashing into the crowd.
The Brownsville Police Department claims it’s not yet clear if the crash was intentional or if Alvarez was intoxicated at the time. Alvarez attempted to flee the scene, but was detained by local residents rather than police. He was held there until the authorities arrived and arrested him on charges of reckless driving.
Police claimed they were unable to identify the driver at first, because he’d been uncooperative following the incident, providing several different names to avoid being identified. He was later identified and arraigned for eight counts of manslaughter, among others. And an investigation is underway to uncover the cause of the incident, but Brownsville Police Investigator Martin Sandoval says it’s unclear whether it was intentional:
Now, we don’t know the actual cause of the accident. Like I said, it could be three different things. One, [it] could be intoxication. Two, it could be just an accidental one or three, it could be intentional.
Police have confiscated video footage of the crash from Victor Maldonado, the director of the Ozanam Center, who shared the following with local news outlets:
“What we see in the video is that this SUV, a Range Rover, just ran the light that was about a 100 feet away and just went through the people who were sitting there in the bus stop,” Maldonado said.
Maldonado adds that the Range Rover flipped after jumping the curb and continued to move for about 200 feet, causing it to strike other pedestrians on the sidewalk who were not part of the group of migrants waiting at the bus stop.