Migrant shooting in Texas: A prison guard and his brother are charged with manslaughter



CNN

The former warden of a Texas prison and his brother were arrested and now face manslaughter charges in the fatal roadside shooting of a migrant this week, according to information obtained by CNN on Friday.

A migrant woman also suffered a gunshot wound to the stomach in the incident Tuesday, authorities said.

Michael and Mark Sheppard, both 60, were arrested Thursday, according to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office.

The men are accused of pulling their truck over near the town of Sierra Blanca, located off Interstate 10 about 25 miles from the Mexican border, and opening fire on a group of migrants getting water along the road, the Texas Department of of Public Safety in a statement.

The shooting killed a man at the scene. The injured woman was recovering Thursday at an El Paso hospital.

Immigrant rights advocates said this area of ​​west Texas has become an increasingly busy route for migrants, and to reach the area, migrants likely walked for days in harsh conditions.

Asked if Michael Sheppard still worked for LaSalle Corrections, the private prison company said in a statement from spokesman Scott Sutterfield that the warden at the West Texas Detention Center in Sierra Blanca had been fired “due to an off-duty incident unrelated to his employment.”

Sutterfield declined to provide further details, citing the criminal investigation.

The West Texas Detention Center contracts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain undocumented migrants.

The brothers remain in custody, according to the sheriff’s office. It is unclear if they have obtained legal representation or if bail has been posted.

The migrants were traveling through the desert in Hudspeth County Tuesday night, just around sunset, and stopped to drink from a reservoir when a truck approached, according to a statement signed by a Texas Ranger.

“The group took cover to avoid detection. The vehicle then backed up and the driver exited the vehicle. The driver leaned against the hood of the vehicle and fired two shots from a firearm at the group. … The driver then re-entered the vehicle and fled the scene,” the statement said.

The migrants told authorities they heard one of the men hurling profanities in Spanish and revving the truck, it said, and when they looked up from the brush where they were hiding, they heard two gunshots.

Agents checked cameras and found a vehicle matching the migrants’ description. They later found the truck at Michael Sheppard’s home in Sierra Blanca, where Sheppard acknowledged the truck belonged to him, the affidavit said.

Sheppard was “reluctant to talk” and left, the Ranger’s affidavit said, and authorities then conducted an interview with his brother, who first said he had not been at the scene of the shooting before admitting that he and his brother had been near the reservoir looking for game, it said.

Mark Sheppard “said they were looking for ducks, then changed it to birds” and then to javelinas, a type of wild boar, the affidavit said. Mark Sheppard saw a “black butt” he thought belonged to a javelin thrower, he said, according to the affidavit.

That’s when his brother “exited the truck with a shotgun, leaned against the hood of the vehicle and fired two shots,” and Mark asked his sibling if he had hit anything, the affidavit said.

Mark Sheppard says he and his brother did not contact police after the shooting, an affidavit says.

“I asked (Mark Sheppard) if either he or his brother went to confirm that they had shot anything and he said they didn’t. Mark Sheppard told us they never shouted anything and after shot, he left to attend a Hudspeth Water Board meeting,” Ranger wrote in his report. “Mark Sheppard told us it was when he heard on the radio that an illegal immigrant was found in the landfill suffering from a gunshot wound. Mark Sheppard told us Michael Sheppard said it was too far from where we lap.”

When asked what he did when he heard a migrant had been found dead at the scene of his brother’s shooting, Mark Sheppard said they had done nothing and had not contacted law enforcement, the affidavit said .

Sierra Blanca is about 90 miles southeast of El Paso.

The Texas Rangers are leading the investigation with assistance from the FBI, US Border Patrol and the Department of Homeland Security.

“As this is an active and ongoing investigation by the Texas Rangers, no additional information is available at this time,” the state Department of Public Safety said in the statement.

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