Former warden arrested for shooting migrants in string of anti-immigrant violence in Texas

Two separate shootings in Hudspeth County in far West Texas this week have left one person dead and two others injured.

By Yvette Benavides & Dan Katz, Texas Public RadioSeptember 30, 2022 9:08 am,

From Texas Public Radio:

Two migrants were shot, one of them fatally, in Hudspeth County in far West Texas on Tuesday, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

“The preliminary investigation shows that a truck with two men inside pulled over and shot at a group of illegal immigrants standing alongside the road getting water,” said DPS Lieutenant Elizabeth Carter.

Carter said two men were arrested in Sierra Blanca Thursday in connection with the shooting.

TPR confirmed the identity of the men, Mike and Mark Sheppard. The brothers were charged with manslaughter and booked in the El Paso County Jail without bond.

Until this week, Mike Sheppard was a jail warden for the West Texas Detention Center in Sierra Blanca — a privately owned detention facility that used to contract with the federal government to detain migrants. A spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement said that facility hasn’t held detainees in federal custody since 2019.

Louisiana-based LaSalle Corrections confirmed to TPR that Mike Sheppard no longer works with the company.

“The warden at West Texas Detention Center, Sierra Blanca, TX, has been terminated due to an off-duty incident unrelated to his employment,” said Scott Sutterfield, a spokesperson for LaSalle in a statement.

Sheppard’s termination was first reported by the San Antonio Express-News.

On Wednesday morning, there was another shooting in Hudspeth County that appeared to also target migrants.

26-year-old Erick Garibaldi of Fort Hancock is accused of shooting a man in the face. He’s being treated at Del Sol Medical Center.

It’s not clear if the two shootings were connected.

The Democratic Party of Texas issued a statement blaming the shootings that killed one person on political rhetoric around immigration policy, which has been stalled in Congress for decades.

“This killing in West Texas is the direct result of Texas Republicans’ violent fearmongering of undocumented migrants: when you continuously use language like ‘invasion’ to describe what is happening at our border, the only logical conclusion is that you want migrants and asylum-seekers to be treated like ‘invaders,’” said Gilberto Hinojosa, chair of the Texas Democratic Party.

Hinojosa pointed out that the same invasion rhetoric led to the WalMart shooting in El Paso that killed 23 people. The shooter said he was “targeting Mexicans.”

“We saw this in El Paso, when a racist monster drove hundreds of miles just to slaughter innocent shoppers at a Wal-Mart, ginned up by the bigoted language that Texas Republicans use to rally their base,” Hinojosa said.

» MORE: Why there’s no ‘invasion’ happening on the U.S.-Mexico border

LULAC, the nation’s largest Latino civil rights organization, named Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis specifically.

“LULAC is outraged by this execution-style gunning down of innocent people, like hunting for human beings to kill. We lay the blood of these migrants directly at the feet of Governors Abbott and DeSantis, who have fed the worst type of hatemongering against migrants in our recent history,” said Domingo García, LULAC National President.

DeSantis and Abbott did not respond to TPR’s requests for comment.

On Friday, Abbott’s Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke called the West Texas shooting a “predictable result” of Abbott’s language about immigration.

Abbott and O’Rourke are scheduled to take part in their one and only debate ahead of the November election Friday at 7pm CST at the border in the Rio Grande Valley.

Abbott has not tweeted about the shootings but did continue his immigration rhetoric on Thursday, touting his controversial Operation Lone Star program, which uses Texas DPS and National Guard to arrest migrants on state trespassing charges. Abbott earlier this year also began bussing migrants from the Texas-Mexico border to cities like New York, Washington D.C. and Chicago. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recently conducted his own operation in Texas, using Florida’s taxpayer dollars to deceive migrants into boarding a chartered flight to Martha’s Vineyard.

Immigration falls under the purview of the federal government, not the states.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection continues to encounter a rise in migration at the Southern border. In July, CBP reported 200,195 encounters.

There have been 748 migrant deaths reported this fiscal year since October 2021, mostly attributable to extreme heat and drownings.

This is a developing story that will be updated.

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