May 8 (Reuters) – A Texas man accused of driving his car into a group of pedestrians near a Brownsville homeless shelter, killing eight people, has been charged with manslaughter and aggravated assault, police said on Monday.
Brownsville Police Chief Felix Sauceda said the driver, identified as 34-year-old Jorge Alvarez, ran a red light and lost control of his sport utility vehicle, striking 18 people and flipping onto its side.
Alvarez tried to run away but was stopped by several bystanders, Sauceda said. Investigators are awaiting toxicology reports on Alvarez to determine if he was impaired at the time of the crash.
Police have not ruled out that the crash may have been intentional, Sauceda said.
Alvarez appeared in court Monday in a white jumpsuit and answered the judge’s questions with a “yes, sir.” He was released on $3.6 million bail. Alvarez has an extensive criminal history, police said.
Investigators are working to identify the victims, some of whom are Venezuelan immigrants.
“It’s a very tedious process, but we are deeply committed to doing it and making it happen,” said Sauceda, whose department is working with the Venezuelan government and other embassies.
In a statement on Monday, the Venezuelan government called for an investigation to determine whether the incident was motivated by hatred or racism.
Brownsville, a city of about 165,000 people along the U.S. border with Mexico, and other communities are expecting a surge of immigrants when the COVID-19 restrictions known as Title 42 expire Thursday.
Title 42, in effect since 2020, allows U.S. authorities to quickly deport immigrants who cross the border illegally without giving them a chance to claim U.S. asylum.
Reuters could not immediately determine whether Alvarez had retained a lawyer.
A video circulating online showing the crash shows a speeding SUV plowing into people sitting on a curb. A second video shows victims lying on the ground, some bleeding and writhing, others motionless.
Reuters could not independently verify the authenticity of the videos.
Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago
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