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The Texas Tribune
The Texas Tribune
Jayme Lozano Carver and Eddie Gaspar

Driver charged with manslaughter after running red light and killing eight pedestrians in Brownsville

A law enforcement officer photographs the scene after a deadly incident where a car ran into pedestrians near Ozanam Center, a shelter for migrants and homeless, in Brownsville on May 7, 2023.
A law enforcement officer photographs the scene after a car ran into pedestrians near the Bishop Enrique San Pedro Ozanam Center, a shelter for migrants and homeless, in Brownsville on May 7, 2023. (Credit: REUTERS/John Faulk)

The driver who crashed into a bus stop outside a Brownsville migrant center Sunday morning, killing eight people and injuring 10 more, has been charged with manslaughter, though police are still investigating whether he intentionally drove into the crowd.

Brownsville police Chief Felix Sauceda said at a press conference Monday that George Alvarez, 34, of Brownsville ran a red light and lost control of his vehicle in front of the Bishop Enrique San Pedro Ozanam Center. Sauceda said Alvarez attempted to flee but was held down by several individuals on the scene until police arrived.

Sauceda said investigators have not yet received toxicology reports to determine whether drugs or alcohol were a factor. At the press conference, police said Alvarez had an extensive criminal history including six previous assault charges against an elderly person, a family member and a public servant.

Alvarez is facing eight manslaughter charges and 10 charges of assault with a deadly weapon. He is in custody.

Surveillance video of the crash posted online showed a line of more than a dozen people sitting or standing along the sidewalk at the bus stop. An SUV traveling fast plowed into the middle of the group, knocking people far back into the grass and onto a driveway. The SUV then flipped, rolled and skidded out of the frame.

News footage from the scene showed that the SUV, a gray Range Rover, came to a stop in the middle of the road with considerable damage to its front and side. Clothes, shoes and debris were scattered on the road and the sidewalk as police collected evidence.

There has been speculation on social media that Alvarez drove into the crowd intentionally, as the crash happened while border cities like Brownsville are facing an increase in immigrants with the end of the Title 42 immigration policy expected this week. Last week, the city of Brownsville extended a local disaster declaration in response.

At a vigil for the victims Monday morning outside the Ozanam Center, Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, said the migrants at the shelter are “very scared” after Sunday’s tragedy.

“It’s really very sad what they’re experiencing,” Pimentel said. “It’s a tremendous tragedy … what we can do for them is simply be on their side and tell them that we’re all here with them.”

The shelter is the largest in Brownsville and can serve 250-300 people per day, executive director Victor Maldonado said, adding that about 90% of the migrants the shelter is currently serving are from Venezuela.

Maldonado said the hospitalized victims “will need help in the days to come dealing with the horrific event, as will the families of those killed,” and the shelter’s immediate needs include counseling for witnesses and survivors, who include children. He added that the shelter has also received “a number of hate messages; we are asking for the public’s support during this difficult time.”

The shelter is preparing to serve an increasing number of migrants later this week as the federal government plans to end Title 42, which has allowed immigration officials to quickly expel migrants without allowing them to request asylum. Pimentel said her organization is working with Catholic parishes throughout the Valley to shelter more migrants so they don’t have to sleep on the streets.

Venezuelan government officials are calling for U.S. authorities to investigate the cause of the killings.

We can’t wait to welcome you Sept. 21-23 to the 2023 Texas Tribune Festival, our multiday celebration of big, bold ideas about politics, public policy and the day’s news — all taking place just steps away from the Texas Capitol. When tickets go on sale in May, Tribune members will save big. Donate to join or renew today.

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