A driver allegedly killed seven people on Sunday and left 10 others seriously injured while they were waiting at a city bus stop next to a migrant shelter, according to police in Brownsville, Texas. According to ValleyCentral.com, it appears that the killings were intentional. The driver has been identified as a male Hispanic local who lives in the area.
The victims were mostly Venezuelan men waiting at the bus stop outside the Ozanam Center at 8.20 am on Sunday when a Range Rover SUV blew the traffic light and plowed over the group. However, police later clarified that they are still investigating the incident.
Manslaughter in Broad Daylight
According to witnesses, the driver was yelling insults at the group and shouted "invasion" before speeding towards the curb. The man is also being tested to check whether he was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the horrific crash.
Police detained him at the bloody scene in the border town and charged him with careless driving. However, given that the FBI and Border Patrol officials have been called in to investigate the incident, additional charges may be brought in.
Footage from the scene showed multiple injured people lying on the ground in bloody clothes in the aftermath as emergency personnel arrived.
The suspect is currently in hospital being treated for injuries, but he is under police watch.
"It was sudden" Luis Herrera, a Venezuelan immigrant, told The New York Post. "A woman drove by and told us to leave the area. We started to leave, and in a second the driver came up and was pointing at us, cursing, calling us things like, 'Motherfââ' and other things I didn't understand."
"When he drove up, he stepped on the gas," Herrera said, stopping to wipe tears from his face. "Full force. He passed over me."
Herrera claimed that the victims were his friends.
Videos shared on Twitter shed more light on the devastation and death the driver caused.
In one video clip which was shot from a high stationary camera, the Range Rover could be seen rushing toward a group of roughly two dozen people. It abruptly turned onto the curb and plowed into the crowd like a wrecking ball.
Another video showed a man moving among the bodies lying on the pavement. While the severely injured writhed and sobbed as they lay in their own blood, the dead lay twisted.
Police and other first responders scurried back and forth in an effort to help the victims.
"What we see in the video is that this SUV just ran the red light and was about 100 feet away and just went through the people who were sitting in the bus stop," shelter director Victor Maldonado told the Associated Press.
According to Victor Maldonado, director of the Bishop Enrique San Pedro Ozanam Center, the SUV flipped after hitting the curb, continued to move for about another 200 feet, and then hit people who were strolling on the sidewalk.
According to Moldonado, the driver then tried to flee the scene but was stopped by some witnesses. A few witnesses also stated that they believed the man was drunk at the time.
Video from the scene also showed police detaining a man who was lying on the ground outside the homeless migrant shelter and was not wearing a shirt.
Officials believe he is a Brownsville-born Hispanic man but have said that he is "extremely uncooperative" and has given investigators several different identities.
The Ozanam facility, which coordinates the release of thousands of migrants from federal custody is the only nighttime shelter in Brownsville. The 185,000-person community, which is perched on the Mexican border close to the Gulf of Mexico, has historically been a hub for migration.
A witness reported to the station that she observed numerous dead draped in shrouds on the road. She stated that women in the area were praying.
No threats were made against the 250-bed refuge before the crash, according to Maldonado. But subsequently, it did receive threats.
"I've had a couple of people come by the gate and tell the security guard that the reason this happened was because of us," Maldonado said.
The city has declared an emergency as border crossings have surged over the past few weeks. Attempts have been made to coordinate a law enforcement and humanitarian response by local, state, and federal entities.