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Texas Rangers investigate the killing of a migrant and the wounding of another

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The warden of a privately run detention facility in West Texas was arrested this week after he and his brother allegedly shot at a group of migrants, killing one and injuring another. Authorities say the migrants had stopped by the side of the road for a drink of water. Now, the detention center in West Texas, which once held detainees for ICE, has a history of serious abuse allegations.

NPR's Joel Rose has been looking into this and joins us now. Hi, Joel.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Hi, Ailsa.

CHANG: So can you just first walk us through what happened here?

ROSE: Sure. Investigators say a group of at least four migrants had stopped in the desert about an hour and a half outside of El Paso and about 15 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. The migrants had stopped to get water from a tank by the side of the road around 7 p.m., according to affidavits filed by law enforcement, when a truck with two men inside stopped and backed up. The migrants told investigators that the men shouted something like come on out in Spanish, only more profane.

The migrants say then they hid in the brush until the men revved the engine of the truck. And when the migrants looked up to see if the truck had left, the driver fired two shots, according to the affidavits. One of the migrants, a man, was shot and killed. A second migrant, a woman, was shot in the stomach and survived. She is now recovering at a hospital in El Paso. Two suspects were taken into custody and charged with manslaughter.

CHANG: And the suspects here, what do we know about them?

ROSE: Mike Sheppard and Mark Sheppard are twin brothers, both 60 years old. Initially, they told investigators they were hunting for birds then later said they were hunting for javelina, which is a hog-like animal. And they deny that they yelled anything before firing. Until this week, Mike Sheppard was the warden at the West Texas Detention Center. He has since been fired, according to a statement from LaSalle Corrections, which is the private company that operates the facility, due to a, quote, "off-duty incident," unquote, unrelated to his job.

This is not the first time Sheppard has been accused of violence against immigrants. In 2018, a group of detainees from Somalia described a week that they spent at the jail Sheppard ran. The men said they were beaten, pepper-sprayed and taunted with racial slurs, including by Sheppard himself. ICE has not housed immigrants at the facility since late 2019, but the U.S. Marshals Service is still using it to hold detainees.

CHANG: OK. I also understand that investigators are looking into another shooting in West Texas this week. What can you tell us about that?

ROSE: Yeah, there was a separate shooting in the same area on Wednesday. Investigators say they've arrested a 26-year-old man who's accused of shooting another man in the face along the side of Interstate 10. Investigators have not said if the victim in that case was a migrant or if there's any link between the two incidents, but immigrant advocates are very concerned that at least one of these incidents, and maybe both, are hate crimes.

CHANG: That is NPR's Joel Rose. Thank you so much, Joel.

ROSE: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Joel Rose is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk. He covers immigration and breaking news.