Grand jury to hear immigrant shooting case

Hidalgo County DA questions aerial use of force by DPS

The case of two Guatemalan immigrants killed by shots fired from a DPS helicopter last October is expected to go before a grand jury in Edinburg later this month.

Hidalgo County District Attorney Rene Guerra said Texas Rangers have submitted their report, but he is awaiting independent ballistics testing of the weapon that was used.

Guerra said a grand jury investigation is his standard policy for any officer-involved shooting.

However, Guerra also questions the aerial use of force in situations like the pursuit that ended north of La Joya.

A longtime district attorney, Guerra said he personally thinks DPS should change its policies regarding shooting from a helicopter.

“I think the policy to shoot when you’re fired on is the soundest of all policies,” Guerra said.

He said otherwise, it should be a matter of life and death, on the ground or in the air, and only if the target is assured.

In this case, Guerra said the victims were hidden beneath a tarp.

According to DPS, the tactical flight officer on board missed as he tried to shoot out the tires to stop the fleeing truck approaching a school zone that was believed to be carrying drugs, not people.

Tom Vinger, DPS spokesman, said the department has had a consistent policy.

“Commissioned officers are obligated to take appropriate action any time an individual or circumstance threatens to kill or injure innocent members of the public or an officer,” Vinger said.

However, Vinger also said DPS is “always evaluating policies, procedures and protocols.”

Asked what if DPS does not his advice, Guerra said, “That’s fine. They don’t tell me how to run my office and I don’t tell them how to run their outfit.”


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