Migrant injured by National Guard soldier patrolling the border

This article was published in conjunction with the Military Times, an independent news organization covering issues of importance to the US military. subscribe to his daily Early Bird Brief is here.

A Texas National Guard soldier patrolling the Texas-Mexico border shot and killed a migrant Sunday morning west of McAllen, according to an internal Texas War Department document obtained by the Military Times and The Texas Tribune.

This is the first known incident since the start of the mission in which a soldier shot and wounded a migrant. The document does not indicate that the migrant had a firearm or any other weapon at the time of the incident. The injury is not life threatening.

The soldier who fired, Spc. Angel Gallegos, an infantryman assigned to the border as part of Gov. Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star, a multi-billion dollar mission to contain the number of migrants entering Texas. About 5,500 Texas National Guard troops remain on post along the Rio Grande, on duty at lookout posts, building fences and in some cases detaining migrants for a mission that began in March 2021.

The migrant was wounded in the left shoulder. According to the document, he was taken to McAllen Medical Center for examination and treatment.

The Texas military department and Abbott’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Erica Miller, a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Safety, said the Texas Rangers were investigating the shooting.

The shooting is the third known incident since the start of the mission in which a member of the Texas Guards deliberately opened fire while on duty. January 2022 a soldier shot at a Chrysler 300, recently spotted smuggling migrants, who he believed was accelerating towards his fellow Guardsman. Nobody was hurt in that incident. Most recently a soldier committed suicide with his service weapon while on patrol at Eagle Pass in October.

The shooting happened around 4:20 am on Sunday after two guardsmen joined border guards and a trained dog who tracked a group of migrants to an abandoned house. The report said soldiers entered the building, where three of the four migrants surrendered.

According to the document, the fourth migrant tried to escape through the window and resisted when one of the soldiers tried to detain him. The document says that the migrant knocked the serviceman to the ground, hitting him with his fists and elbows. During the struggle, the guardsman drew his M17 pistol and shot the migrant in the left shoulder at close range, when the migrant fell on top of the soldier. The soldier fired once, the document says.

No other injuries were reported.

It is not clear if the soldier intended to fire his weapon. Two soldiers assigned to the border mission died in random shots — known in military parlance as “negligent discharges” — since it expanded in the fall of 2021.

Rod Kise, U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman for the Rio Grande Valley, said Border Patrol agents as well as DPS soldiers were present at the time of the shooting on Sunday morning. Kise said the Department of Public Safety is the lead agency for the investigation, but the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility is also looking into the incident.

“More information will be provided as it becomes available,” Kise said.

The Texas Ranger conducted an “initial interview” with the soldier after the shooting. The Department of Public Safety, which oversees the Texas Rangers Investigation Unit, is working alongside the Texas War Department on Operation Lone Star.

Miller said DPS could not provide further information as the investigation continues.

U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, a Democrat from El Paso who has been critical of Operation Lone Star, said the border security mission created the situation that led to the shooting.

“Gov. Greg Abbott’s reckless and political decision to place our National Guard troops in situations for which they have no special training and over which they rarely, if ever, have jurisdiction, makes an already difficult situation potentially dangerous.” says in the statement. “Keeping this deployment going will only lead to similar incidents, or even worse, ones that could prove fatal. I expect a full, thorough and transparent investigation.”

Erin Thorne, senior lawyer for the Texas Civil Rights Project, said the shooting demonstrated the need for “humane policy on the frontier.”

“Decades of ‘tough immigration’ policies have turned the border areas into war zones and have not solved the problem of immigration or improved the lives of border residents,” Thorne said in a statement. “We hope that the ongoing investigation will point to the answer we knew from the beginning – we need a comprehensive immigration reform that welcomes people with dignity and respect, not guns and bullets.”

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