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7 dead after car plows into group near Texas migrant shelter

SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

At least seven people were killed and six more were injured after they were struck earlier today by a vehicle near a migrant shelter in the city of Brownsville, Texas. That's on the Texas-Mexico border. Texas Public Radio's Pablo De La Rosa is covering the story, and he joins us now from the Rio Grande Valley. Pablo, thanks for being here.

PABLO DE LA ROSA, BYLINE: Thank you for having me.

MCCAMMON: This incident happened around 8:30 this morning at a bus stop outside the Ozanam Center, which, as we said, is a migrant shelter. Pablo, what else do we know from law enforcement about the driver and what happened?

DE LA ROSA: Well, I reviewed surveillance video of this horrific incident this morning, and it shows an SUV crashed into a crowd of people at high velocity and in front of a migrant shelter in Brownsville. Now, to give listeners some idea, the Ozanam migrant shelter is just five miles from a similar migrant shelter in Mexico. So this is a region where migrants are traveling through, where migrants may be released by federal agencies to travel to other destinations. And this is what was happening. They were waiting at a bus stop to go to their next destination. After the incident, the driver was immediately taken into custody. He remains in custody at a county hospital. He's being treated for injuries, and Brownsville Police Department has identified him only as a Hispanic male resident of Brownsville, Texas.

MCCAMMON: And what do we know about the victims?

DE LA ROSA: Well, the police department has confirmed that at least some of them are - some of the deceased are migrants, and they're continuing to look into that - all traveling to other parts of the country. This particular group was mostly Venezuelan men.

MCCAMMON: And what have authorities said, if anything, Pablo, about whether or not this was an intentional act?

DE LA ROSA: Earlier today, Brownsville PD said they're looking at three different possibilities. The first is that this was an alcohol-related incident, the second is maybe a road accident. And they're looking into those two possibilities, including - there's a blood sample from the driver in toxicology right now. But the third one is that maybe this was an intentional act. And just very recently, before I got on the call with you, we've got local reports in the local media with some of the victims saying - let me read you one quote. This is from somebody who was in the crowd. "A woman in a car passed by and advised us to separate. Moments later, the killer was coming in the car, gesturing and insulting us."

And we've also got a statement from Lieutenant Martin Sandoval of the Brownsville Police Department from earlier today. He said, quote, "it's looking more and more like an intentional act, and more charges may be filed." So we don't have a definitive statement from authorities right now that it was an intentional act, but it's under investigation. And we'll find out, hopefully soon, what may have been behind this incident.

MCCAMMON: Such a horrific incident. How are people in the area reacting?

DE LA ROSA: Well, everybody's expressing so much heartbreak, you know, on social media, including city leaders. This border community has hosted migrants on both sides of the border for generations, and we've got the end of Title 42 coming up. So there's an expected large number of people coming across, and it's just been frustrating to see a lot of anti-immigrant rhetoric on media coverage, and it's been frustrating - some people are frustrated with the logistical challenge of accommodating these migrants in the region.

MCCAMMON: That's Texas Public Radio's Pablo De La Rosa reporting from the Rio Grande Valley. Thank you for your reporting.

DE LA ROSA: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Pablo De La Rosa