BROWNSVILLE, Texas – The driver of an SUV who killed eight people when it crashed into a bus stop in Brownsville, Texas, has been charged with manslaughter, police said Monday as investigators tried to determine whether the crash it was intentional.
Authorities believe driver George Alvarez, 34, of Brownsville, lost control after running a red light Sunday morning and collided with a crowd of Venezuelans outside a migrant center.
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Police Chief Felix Sauceda said Alvarez was charged with eight counts of manslaughter and 10 counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Officials are awaiting toxicology reports to determine whether Alvarez was intoxicated, Sauceda said, adding there were no grounds he could discuss.
The SUV ran a red light, lost control, flipped onto its side and hit 18 people, Sauceda said at a news conference Monday morning. Six people died at the scene and 12 people were seriously injured, he said. Officials said the death toll later rose to eight.
Alvarez tried to flee but was held up by several people at the scene, he said. His bail was set at $3.6 million.
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Victims struck by the vehicle were waiting for the bus to return to downtown Brownsville after spending the night at the overnight shelter, said Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley.
Most of the victims were Venezuelan men, shelter director Victor Maldonado said. Brownsville has seen a surge in Venezuelan migrants in the past two weeks for unclear reasons, authorities said. On Thursday, 4,000 of the approximately 6,000 migrants detained by Border Patrol in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley were Venezuelans.
Police recovered a blood sample and sent it to a Texas Department of Public Safety laboratory to be tested for intoxicants.