It's no longer legal to shoot immigrants in Texas, if done from a helicopter. Following the shooting deaths of two Guatemalan immigrants last October, the state announced Thursday (Feb. 21) that officials will no longer be allowed to attack from the sky.
According to the new policy,"firearms discharge from an aircraft is authorized only when an officer reasonably believes that the suspect has used or is about to use deadly force by use of a deadly weapon against the air crew, ground officers or innocent third parties."
Regardless of the timing, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw said that the announcement has nothing to do with the aforementioned shootings, which were the subject of protest. "I'm convinced that now, from a helicopter platform, that we shouldn't shoot unless being shot at, or unless someone is being shot at,” he said. "Last Friday, after a review of the policy and looking at all of the different things, and this is not a reflection of what happened there, I'm a firm believer they did exactly what they thought they needed to do."
Terri Burke, executive director of the Texas American Civil Liberties Union, expressed satisfaction with the news, but wishes it would have come sooner. "We're thrilled, but we were surprised. We hope that this decision is a step, if only a small one, toward ending the culture of violence that pervades enforcement of border security in Texas," Burke said in a statement.
On October 25, a trooper opened fire on a tarp-covered truck, fatally striking two undocumented immigrants. Officials were tailing the vehicle, which was "traveling at reckless speeds endangering the public," believing it was used to transport drugs.
No drugs were found inside the truck.
The shooting remains under criminal investigation, while the trooper involved has returned to work, but under a different capacity.
Prior to the shootings, a DPS video was met with controversy for showing snipers being trained to disable vehicles during high-speed chases along the U.S./Mexico border.