Even After a Deadly Helicopter Shooting, Lethal Force Policies Are Still Murky at the Texas Border

Are policies creating unnecessary deaths for immigrants trying to cross the border?

By David BrownMarch 3, 2015 12:39 pm

In Penitas, Texas back in 2012, a Department of Public Safety helicopter opened fire on a Ford F150.

The officers, believing the truck was smuggling drugs, shot out three of its tires, bringing the vehicle to a stop.

Instead, the truck was being used to smuggle undocumented immigrants across the border.

After the shots, six people jumped out of the cab and started running. Another three men remained in the truck bed. Only two of those three men survived. The story raises questions about how far the government is willing to go to crack down on border crime, including illegal crossings.

Texas Observer reporter Melissa del Bosque covered the incident – and what it says about border policy – in a piece called “Death on Sevenmile Road:”

“After the incident, DPS conducted an internal investigation, but refused to release documents or video related to the incident, despite requests from news organizations and the ACLU. A Hidalgo County grand jury was convened to investigate, but the evidence presented was also kept from the public. …

“After the 2012 shooting, it became clear the agency had no policy regarding the use of deadly force from a helicopter. Elected officials in the region, it turned out, had not even been notified that state police in helicopters were now shooting out the tires of vehicles as part of a drug interdiction strategy along the border.”

Del Bosque joins the Standard to talk about her report – which also includes a copy of the 22-minute helicopter video shown to the grand jury. Listen to the interview in the player above.

This post was prepared with assistance by Megan Jo Olson