DPS releases name of officer in fatal La Joya chase

The Texas Department of Public Safety has released the name of the state trooper who fired on a fleeing pickup truck near the U.S.-Mexico border, killing two illegal immigrants who were hiding under a blanket in the bed.

DPS tactical flight officer Miguel Avila had been placed on administrative leave immediately following the Oct. 25 incident near La Joya, but the agency said Thursday he had returned to work, though he has been reassigned to administrative duties.

The agency's statement reiterated its earlier comments that troopers believed they were pursuing a covered a drug load when shots were fired from a helicopter to disable the vehicle.

They believed the driver's recklessness was a threat to the public, including elementary and middle schools less than three miles away.

DPS Update on Officer Involved Shooting in Hidalgo County

AUSTIN " On October 31, the Texas Rangers provided an overview of the investigation to Hidalgo County District Attorney Rene Guerra. The Texas Rangers will continue the investigation, and will follow up on any leads and provide any additional information or assistance requested by District Attorney Guerra.

The DPS tactical flight officer, Miguel Avila, who discharged his weapon, was originally placed on leave with pay, and has since returned to duty; however, he is currently reassigned to administrative duties pending the outcome of this investigation.

At this point the investigation has identified the following:

At approximately 3 p.m. on October 25, 2012, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department game wardens attempted to stop a suspicious red pickup truck on an unpaved road in Hidalgo County. The truck refused to stop and began driving at a high rate of speed. The game wardens requested assistance, and a DPS helicopter responded, locating the pickup truck after it had been pursued by the game wardens for approximately 6.8 miles.

The truck was traveling at a dangerously high rate of speed. The vehicle appeared to have a typical covered drug load in the bed of the truck, based upon numerous similar high speed pursuits that have previously taken place in the area.

The pickup truck continued to speed recklessly toward William J. Clinton Elementary School, Dr. Javier Saenz Middle School and Salinas Elementary at a time of day when the children are typically released from school, posing an immediate threat to the school children and motoring public.

The DPS tactical flight officer shot multiple times from the helicopter in an effort to disable the vehicle TMs tires until it came to a stop within 2.6 miles of William J Clinton Elementary School and Dr. Javier Saenz Middle School. The entire pursuit lasted approximately 14.3 miles.

A dark colored blanket covered the bed of the truck and remained intact throughout the pursuit, covering a suspected drug load. No people were observed in the bed of the pickup truck until it came to a stop and several people were then observed running from the vehicle. Seven illegal aliens from Guatemala were captured and detained near the scene, one of whom was injured and transported to a local hospital for medical attention. An eighth illegal alien, subsequently identified as a juvenile Mexican national, was apprehended later that day. Two others are deceased.

Although it is very tragic that two lives were lost, had the vehicle continued recklessly speeding through the school zone, any number of innocent bystanders or young lives could have been lost or suffered serious bodily injury. There have been any number of people providing speculative commentary and opinions about this case, most of which has no basis in fact, and I would ask that they withhold judgment until the investigation is completed and reviewed by the District Attorney and grand jury. Jumping to final conclusions without knowing all the facts and circumstances is not only counterproductive but it TMs irresponsible. Anytime an incident like this occurs, it is important to review all related policies, which we are doing at this time, said DPS Director Steven McCraw.

Please visit the following link to view slides related to the incident:

The first slide reflects the route of the pursuit including the location of passing vehicles, the locations where the suspect truck was fired upon and came to a stop, and the schools in the path of the fleeing vehicle, as well as the point in which the helicopter joined the pursuit. The second slide reflects the number of pursuits, drug and currency seizures from 2009 to 2012, as well as the schools in the area.

No further information is available at this time. This investigation continues and additional information will only be released as appropriate.

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