Eight people waiting at a bus stop in a Texas border city were killed and a dozen more were injured early Sunday when a vehicle rammed into them, officials said.
The victims, who are believed to be migrants, were at a stop near a Catholic Charities facility in Brownsville known as the Ozanam Center, a senior law enforcement official said.
Shortly after the crash, around 8:30 a.m., seven deaths were reported. Brownsville Mayor Trey Mendez later said an additional person had died.
“Several more remain critical,” Mendez said in a statement on Facebook.
Initially, the senior law enforcement official said, authorities believed it was an intentional act. The official later said that it’s not clear whether it was intentional and that the investigation into the motive is ongoing.
Brownsville Lt. Martin Sandoval echoed that in an interview, saying police were also looking into whether the driver was intoxicated or whether the incident was an accident.
But, Sandoval said, the driver, a Hispanic male, hasn’t been cooperating with investigators.
“He has given us several names,” said Sandoval, adding that authorities are waiting for a fingerprint match they hope will positively identify the driver, who has been charged with reckless driving.
Sandoval said more charges are likely. The FBI is assisting Brownsville police in the investigation, a spokesperson for the agency said.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland was briefed about the incident, the Department of Justice said.
Ambulances took 11 people injured in the crash at 8:30 a.m. to local hospitals, the Brownsville Fire Department said on its official Facebook page.
One of the injured was airlifted to Valley Baptist Medical Center in nearby Harlingen, the fire department said.
One migrant from Venezuela who had been staying at the Ozanam Center for three days told NBC affiliate KVEO of Brownsville that he was almost struck.
“We were waiting there, and the truck sped through the traffic light, and by the grace of God nothing happened to us, but they did hit the others around us,” the man, who gave his name as Jesus, told the station.
Brownsville is one of the border cities that is already seeing a surge in migrants trying to cross into the U.S. from Mexico before the Title 42 immigration program ends Thursday.
The Covid ban, imposed in the last year of the Trump administration, has turned migrants back to Mexico more than 2.5 million times since it went into effect in March 2020.
Mendez, the mayor, said Sunday afternoon that what happened remained unclear.
“As we continue to receive information on the tragic incident that occurred today, we have yet to receive evidence that this was an intentional act,” the mayor said.
Sister Norma Pimentel, the executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, said the Ozanam Center houses some migrants overnight. She said it has received no direct threats in connection with the border crisis in recent weeks.
“Truly unfortunate that this tragic thing happened,” Pimentel said. “It’s something that with all the attention to the migrants it must pick up the attention to those who are against them.”
Migrants “don’t deserve to face this tragic reality,” Pimentel said.