At least eight people were mauled to death in Brownsville, Texas, on Sunday after an SUV ploughed into a group of people, at a bus stop near a homeless shelter. The man accused and later identified has been charged with eight counts of manslaughter, said the local police chief on Monday (May 8). This comes as the investigators are now trying to determine if the crash was intentional.

The man, later identified as 34-year-old, George Alvarez, seemingly lost control after he ran a red light on early Sunday and ploughed into a crowd of mostly Venezuelans outside a migrant centre, said the Brownsville Police Chief Felix Sauceda said at a press conference, on Monday. The vehicle hit 18 people after which it flipped on its side. 

According to the police chief, six people died on the scene and 12 people were critically injured, it was not until later that officials confirmed that the death toll had risen to eight. The driver attempted to flee the scene after impact but was held down by several bystanders, he added. Alvarez has now been charged with eight counts of manslaughter and 10 counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, said Sauceda. 

Meanwhile, the officials are also awaiting toxicology reports on Alvarez to see if the accused was intoxicated at the time of the incident. The police chief also said that there was no motive that he could discuss, but that the authorities have not ruled out the possibility that the crash was intentional. Alvarez has an extensive criminal history, said the police chief and was being held on a bail set at $3.6 million. 

“George Alvarez is a Brownsville local with an extensive rap sheet,” said Sauceda, while displaying a long list of previous charges against the accused which included assault, burglary and driving while intoxicated. 

“It has been a very tiresome process but we are deeply committed to doing and accomplishing,” said Sauceda, adding that the police department is also working with the Venezuelan government and other embassies. This also comes after the Venezuelan government, in a statement on Monday, called for an investigation into whether it was a crime of hate and xenophobia. 

According to Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, the victims were struck by the vehicle as they were waiting for the bus to return to downtown Brownsville after spending the night at the overnight shelter, reported the Associated Press. Shelter’s director, Victor Maldonado, said most of the victims were Venezuelan men.

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