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The Brownsville man whose SUV struck a group of immigrants waiting for a bus on Sunday is well known to police, has an extensive rap sheet and is being held on $3.6 million in bonds at the Brownsville city jail, Police Chief Felix Sauceda said Monday.
In a press conference at police headquarters, Sauceda confirmed George Alvarez, 34, as the SUV driver. He said Alvarez has been arraigned and formally charged with eight counts of manslaughter and 10 counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
But Sauceda would not say definitively whether the horrific crash occurred intentionally or due to intoxication.
The crash killed eight immigrants, all men, and injured 10, Sauceda said, adding that investigators have yet to fully determine the details surrounding the crash, which occurred at 8:29 a.m. Sunday across the street from the Bishop Enrique San Pedro Ozanam Center at 600 N. Minnesota Ave.
“Through investigation it was found that the SUV ran a red light, lost control, flipped on its side and struck a total of 18 individuals. It was further found that there were six fatalities on scene and 12 critically injured. From then to now fatalities have grown to eight,” Sauceda said.
When asked whether Alvarez was intoxicated, Sauceda said investigators are waiting on official toxicology reports.
Sauceda also pushed back on claims that Alvarez had shouted derisive obscenities at the immigrants that characterized them as invaders.
“We have nothing to validate that at this point,” he said.
“Brownsville is a proud resilient city. We will continue to best serve our community as we mourn and continue our investigation. We will work with our network and supporters to ensure reunification efforts and victim assistance is made available to all affected. We have established contact with Venezuelan officials and will continue to work with them,” Sauceda said before taking questions from reporters.
He then said that all of the victims are immigrants, all are men, and at least some of them are Venezuelan.
The process of identifying victims has been difficult, he said.
“It has been a very tiresome process, but one we are deeply committed to doing and accomplishing. We are working with the Venezuelan government right now. We have also reached out to other embassies,” he said.
Regarding the 10 listed as injured, Sauceda said their conditions are serious.
“There are various very critical injuries. We continue to have a scaling, if you will, of fatalities,” he said.
The chief then asked for the public’s help in bringing the investigation to a conclusion, saying any and all videos and any and all statements are helpful.
“Whatever it is that you know that can help us collaborate and bring this investigation to an end, please reach out to us. We have a very robust social media platform so please reach out to us.”
Alvarez’s criminal history that police displayed at the press conference included two previous cases of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, one of assault against elderly or disabled, four assaults causing bodily injury to a family member, one of driving while intoxicated, one of obstruction or retaliation and one of possession of marijuana among 22 total offenses listed.