Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Texas Injustice

A Texas Injustice
Published: November 5, 2012

Which is more unbelievable: that a state trooper in Texas decided to stop a fleeing pickup by shooting at it from a helicopter, even though the truck was crammed with people, or that nothing in the official policies of the trooper’s employer, the Texas Department of Public Safety, forbids such lethal recklessness?

Outrage in Texas After Airborne Police Sharpshooter Kills 2 (November 5, 2012)

Both statements are true, and two men are dead as a result. The shootings happened on Oct. 25 near rural La Joya, which is close to the border with Mexico. The trooper allegedly thought the truck was running drugs. It was carrying immigrant Guatemalans, including the two young men — Jose Leonardo Coj Cumar, 32, and Marcos Antonio Castro Estrada, 29, who were hiding with several others under a blanket in the bed of the truck. The director of the Guatemalan Consulate in nearby McAllen, Alba Caceres, said Mr. Coj had entered the country to earn money to pay for surgery for his 11-year-old son.

As appalling as the shootings were, a state representative who leads the committee overseeing the Department of Public Safety insisted they were no big deal and not worth a hearing or policy review. “It’s unfortunate some people died,” the lawmaker, Sid Miller, told The Associated Press, “but I guess the lesson is: don’t be running from the law. So there will be no hearing.”

Thankfully, others disagree. The prosecutor in Hidalgo County said he would seek a grand jury investigation. State officials are conducting inquiries and have asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division to do the same. And some state lawmakers want to rethink the agency’s insanely permissive shooting-at-vehicles policy, bringing it into line with other states and the federal Border Patrol, which have stricter limits on when — and at what — officers can shoot. Abolishing the policy is the least that should emerge from this outrage. As State Representative Lon Burnam said, “Neither human trafficking nor drug trafficking deserves the death penalty without a trial.”

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