New details emerging from deadly SUV crash in Brownsville

The name of the driver has been revealed, but authorities aren’t firm on whether the act was intentional.

By Sarah Asch and Sean SaldanaMay 9, 2023 2:05 pm, ,

This weekend, there was a deadly car crash in South Texas that made national headlines and prompted an FBI investigation.

It was early Sunday morning in Brownsville, around 8:30 a.m., when an SUV ran a red light and struck a group of people waiting for a bus outside of a shelter that serves migrants. At least eight people were killed, ten others were injured. 

Pablo De La Rosa has been reporting on the event for Texas Public Radio in San Antonio and for NPR. He joined the Texas Standard to talk about what’s known so far. Listen to the story above or read the transcript below.

This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Texas Standard: Is there any new information folks should know as of this morning?

Pablo De La Rosa: The Brownsville Police Department had a press briefing yesterday. On Monday, of course, they identified the name of the individual, the driver who’s been charged with eight counts of manslaughter. He’s been charged with ten counts of aggravated assault. And actually a longer list of charges beyond that aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. They set his bond at $3.6 million. You know, the police department said they’re working with the FBI to continue investigating the motive behind what happened on Sunday. 

I understand that the driver of this vehicle was not unknown to police. Is that right?

Right, you know, the police chief described the driver as a Brownsville resident with a long rap sheet. And we still don’t have quite a lot of details about the long term history of this individual. But the police chief did share that detail.

Brownsville police investigator Lt. Martin Sandoval, apparently also said that this was looking more and more like an intentional act. What evidence suggests this may have been deliberate?

Well, you have to take into account when this first happened on Sunday, we saw comments like that made by the police department. They said that more charges were forthcoming and that it was looking more and more like it was intentional. You know, they’ve been a lot less verbal about that and have just repeated the line that it’s still under investigation. There’s a toxicology report coming. And they also mentioned that they may be investigating this as an accident. But, you know, it sounds like during the investigation, they don’t want to say much more than that. We have people at the scene who say that the driver accelerated towards them. They say that the driver was gesturing and insulting them. And we also have one report, actually several reports, that a woman in a separate car told the crowd to disperse before [the suspect, George] Alvarez came with the SUV. 

Disperse before? You mean like minutes before or I mean, was she expecting it or was this just like seconds before? 

You know, reviewing the video – and I’ve reviewed video surveillance video from the shelter – we don’t really know. But I know that we can see another vehicle sort of lingering, maybe talking to the crowd just seconds before we see the Range Rover come into the frame at high velocity on that particular detail. Brownsville Police Department was asked about that during the press briefing. And they say, you know, all the answer was we don’t have any information to corroborate that at the moment. And they’re still investigating. But again, I think it was all very quick and we don’t have many more details except for that witness account who said that that vehicle warned them before the incident.

Well, it’ll be interesting to find out what the timeline is for that warning. Let’s talk about reaction in the Brownsville area – a huge story that’s received national attention. What are you hearing from locals in Brownsville, people who have lived in the area?

Well, we’re hearing a lot of heartbreak, a lot of frustration with what’s happening with immigration policy, both in the long term and this week. A mass was held Sunday night by the Catholic dioceses. We’ve had multiple vigils. Yesterday, we had a vigil at the steps of the Capitol in Austin, organized by some Rio Grande Valley-based organizations. We had several vigils in Brownsville yesterday, and I think more will come, but the community is coping as best they can.

Tensions are high and this is a community that has hosted migrants for generations, both migrants that have passed through and also made up of migrants. And so everything right now is, you know, a lot of intense feelings, especially with the end of Title 42 coming up, and that causing an increased presence of security on the border.

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