- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Texas trooper who shot and killed two Guatemalan immigrants who had illegally crossed into the United States and were fleeing authorities will not be charged with any crime, a grand jury determined Wednesday.

The trooper wasn’t named because of grand jury secrecy rules, but his legal proceedings stemmed from last year’s shooting of two Guatemalan immigrants, Jose Leonardo Coj Cumar, 32, and Marcos Antonio Castro Estrada, 29, who were hiding in the bed of a truck that was fleeing authorities near the Mexico border. The trooper was in a helicopter, tracking their flight, when he shot at their truck and killed them, The Los Angeles Times reported.

The killings sparked a civil rights outrage and led to a new Texas Department of Public Safety rule against troopers firing at suspects from the sky except to return fire.

The trooper maintained that he fired only because he thought the truck drivers were drug smugglers and about to enter a school zone. He also maintained that he had aimed at the truck to disable it and not at the men.

The grand jury apparently agreed with that argument and declined to issue an indictment.

“Once you see the video, everybody is able to judge for themselves. There’s nothing hidden in the shooting. You can observe the chase from the helicopter. It is what it is,” said Rene Guerra, the Hidalgo County district attorney, in The L.A. Times. He also said that the video made it clear that the trooper had aimed his rifle at the truck’s rear tires.

The Texas Department of Public Safety issued a statement after the grand jury determination: “It’s tragic that someone lost their life. The fact is that a trooper was doing his job as he was trained to do. The grand jury supported the fact that we in law enforcement can continue doing our job as long as we’re doing it for the right reasons.”

The Oct. 25 incident began when a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department game warden tried to stop a pickup truck near La Joya, Texas, and the driver refused to pull over. That situation led to a chase and subsequent call for police backup. The Texas Department of Public Safety helicopter unit joined in the chase.

Ultimately, drugs weren’t discovered in the truck, but police did find 10 immigrants hiding beneath a blanket, including the two bodies of the shot men.



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