According to an internal Texas Military Department memo obtained by Military Times and The Texas Tribune, a Texas National Guard member patrolling the Texas-Mexico border shot a migrant on Sunday morning just west of McAllen.
It is the first instance in which a soldier has shot and injured a migrant since the mission’s start that is known to exist. The documentation makes no mention of the migrant possessing a gun or any other weapons at the time of the occurrence. The injury is not potentially fatal.
Spc. Angel Gallegos, the soldier who opened fire, is an infantryman on duty at the border as part of Operation Lone Star, Gov. Greg Abbott’s multibillion-dollar initiative to reduce the flow of immigrants into Texas.
For the mission, which started in March 2021, over 5,500 men of the Texas National Guard are still stationed along the Rio Grande, maintaining observation posts, erecting walls, and occasionally apprehending migrants.
A bullet struck the immigrant’s left shoulder. According to the record, he was brought to McAllen Medical Center for assessment and care.
Requests for a response from Abbott’s office and the Texas Military Department were not immediately fulfilled.
The Texas Rangers are looking into the shooting, according to a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety named Ericka Miller.
Since the start of the operation, a Texas Guard member has intentionally opened fire on duty three times, according to records. In January 2022, a soldier opened fire on a Chrysler 300 he thought was speeding toward a fellow guardsman and had lately been observed transporting illegal immigrants.
In such a case, nobody was hurt. More recently, in October, a soldier was on patrol in Eagle Pass when he committed himself with his service weapon.
Around 4:20 a.m. on Sunday, two Guardsmen assisted Border Patrol agents and a trained canine in shooting a group of migrants they had traced to an abandoned home. According to the report, the soldiers went into the structure where three of the four migrants turned themselves in.
The fourth immigrant attempted to escape through a window, and when one of the troops tried to capture him, he resisted. The document said that the migrant punched the military member with his fists and elbows as he was being wrestled to the ground.
The Guard member pulled his M17 pistol during the battle, and as the immigrant was collapsing on top of him, he shot him in the left shoulder. The document stated that the soldier fired one shot.
There were no other recorded injuries.
If the soldier meant to fire his weapon is unclear. Since the border mission’s expansion in the fall of 2021, two service men assigned to it have perished in unintentional gunshots, or “negligent discharges,” as they are known in the military.
Border Patrol personnel and DPS troopers were present during the incident on Sunday morning, according to Rod Kise, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection in the Rio Grande Valley.
The Office of Professional Responsibility at CBP is also looking into the event, according to Kise, who stated that the Department of Public Safety is the leading agency in the probe.
As further information becomes available, it will be disclosed, according to Kise.
After the incident, a Texas Ranger performed a “initial interview” with the soldier. Operation Lone Star is a joint effort between the Texas Military Department and the Department of Public Safety, which is in charge of the Texas Rangers section that conducts investigations.
Due to the ongoing nature of the inquiry, Miller stated that DPS was unable to offer any other details.
U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, an El Paso Democrat and opponent of Operation Lone Star, claimed that the border security mission was to blame for the shooting’s circumstances.
She said in a statement that “Governor Greg Abbott’s reckless and political decision to put our National Guard service members in circumstances for which they lack specialized training and for which they infrequently if ever have jurisdiction makes an already dangerous situation potentially dangerous.”
“Continuing this deployment will only result in similar occurrences, or worse—incidents that might turn fatal. I anticipate a comprehensive, transparent, and complete investigation.
The incident demonstrated the necessity for “humane regulations at the border,” according to Erin Thorn, a senior attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project.
In a statement, Thorn claimed that “decades of ‘tough on immigration’ policies have turned border communities into war zones and have neither improved the lives of border residents or solved the immigration problem.”
“We hope the ongoing inquiry will reveal the solution we’ve known all along – we need thorough immigration reform that welcomes people with decency and respect, not weapons and bullets,” the statement reads.