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Death toll increases to 8 after car plows into a crowd in front of a Texas shelter that was housing migrants

<i>Brownsville Fire Department</i><br/>The Brownsville Fire Department shared a photo on Facebook of first responders arriving to the scene of a major accident that left at least seven dead on Sunday.
Brownsville Fire Department
The Brownsville Fire Department shared a photo on Facebook of first responders arriving to the scene of a major accident that left at least seven dead on Sunday.

By Rosa Flores, Zoe Sottile and Gloria Pazmino, CNN

A driver plowed into a group outside a shelter that had been housing migrants in a Texas border town on Sunday, leaving eight people dead — including several immigrants — and close to a dozen injured, authorities say.

Authorities in Brownsville, Texas say they got a call around 8:30 am CT about a Land Rover that hit multiple people who were waiting at a bus stop across the street from the Bishop Enrique San Pedro Ozanam Center, a non-profit homeless shelter that has been helping house migrants. Authorities say it’s unclear whether the crash was intentional.

Seven people were found dead at the scene and 10 were taken to hospitals, Martin Sandoval, a Brownsville police spokesperson, told CNN. Later Sunday, an eighth person died due to injuries from the crash, Sandoval told CNN.

Sandoval said several migrants were among the dead and Border Patrol is working to confirm the identities of the victims. The FBI is also assisting with the investigation.

Police are set to provide more information about the crash during a press conference on Monday at 10:30 am CT.

CNN interviewed migrants staying at the center in December. At the time, the center’s director told CNN that migrants from all over the world were beginning to stay at the shelter and they were seeing an uptick in stays. The shelter is equipped to house and feed 200 people, according to its website.

Witnesses at the scene detained the driver until officers arrived, Sandoval said during a Sunday news conference. He said the driver of the vehicle received medical care and has been arrested on a reckless driving charge. “More than likely” there will be other charges added, Sandoval said.

The driver, identified as a Hispanic man, is being “uncooperative” with authorities, according to Sandoval. He has given authorities multiple names, and police have had to fingerprint him in hopes of finding his identity — which takes more time, Sandoval said.

Authorities have a blood sample from the driver and a toxicology test will be ordered, Sandoval said. It’s unclear how long it will take for authorities to get those results, he said.

Brownsville police are investigating with the help of Border Patrol, he added.

Sandoval said authorities are still investigating whether the crash was intentional or accidental. He said witnesses described seeing the driver ignore a red light, drive up on a curb and run over a group of people waiting at the bus stop.

The shelter has been housing immigrants while they wait for more permanent housing, he said.

Brownsville is located on the southern tip of Texas, just across the Rio Grande River. The city’s population is nearly 95% Hispanic or Latino, according to the 2022 census.

Brownsville declared a state of emergency after receiving an influx of thousands of migrants, many from Venezuela, in the past several weeks, CNN previously reported.

The crash happened just days before a Trump-era immigration restriction dubbed Title 42 is set to expire. The pandemic-era policy allowed immigration agents to swiftly return migrants to their home countries. Officials have predicted a rise in immigration in coming weeks when the restrictions are lifted Thursday.

Shelter director says surveillance footage captured horrific crash

Victor Maldonado, the director of the Ozanam Center, told CNN that about 20 to 25 migrants were sitting on the curb waiting for a bus across the street from the shelter. He said surveillance video captured the deadly wreck with footage showing a vehicle driving very quickly, crashing about 30 feet from where the migrants were sitting and then losing control.

Police took Maldonado’s copy of the surveillance video, he said.

The migrants were from Venezuela and had arrived at the shelter about two or three days ago, Maldonado said.

Maldonado said after the crash, he and a staff member at the shelter ran outside to find a very graphic scene, with body parts spread across the area.

“I’ve got a staff [member] who is in shock,” Maldonado said, adding that he, too, was in shock.

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