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Texas driver who hit a group of asylum-seekers is charged with manslaughter

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Police say they're still trying to determine whether a driver intended to plow into a group of migrants at a bus stop in Brownsville, Texas. Eight people were killed. Community members came together yesterday at the crash site to remember them. And Gaige Davila of Texas Public Radio was there.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Speaking Spanish).

GAIGE DAVILA, BYLINE: Dozens of people are standing in a half circle around flowers and candles. Seven women are praying the rosary. These mourners have come across the Rio Grande Valley Monday to gather at the bus stop across the Ozanam Center, an overnight shelter for immigrants. Just about 24 hours earlier, eight people, all Venezuelan migrants, were killed here after a driver ran them over. La Union del Pueblo Entero, or LUPE, was one of several immigration advocacy groups attending the vigil. Tania Chavez is the executive director.

TANIA CHAVEZ: It's painful. This is a community of immigrants. Majority of us who live in the Rio Grande Valley either know somebody or they themselves are an immigrant. And so it has - it was not easy.

DAVILA: What wasn't easy for her was watching videos of the aftermath, which show graphic details of the victim's injuries. Chavez says this latest tragedy affecting migrants shows that the city's shelters need more aid.

CHAVEZ: But the circumstances that took place are a testament of the lack of infrastructure that the shelters have. This bus stop doesn't have the robust infrastructure that it should have to help protect those immigrants from the incident.

DAVILA: The bus stop was just a sign along a busy road close to the curb. The victims were all men waiting to head to other parts of the country. Brownsville police have yet to determine the cause of the crash, but are not ruling out that it could have been intentional. The driver, 34-year-old George Alvarez, has been charged with eight counts of manslaughter and 10 counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in connection with the crash. Brownsville Police Chief Felix Sauceda says Alvarez is well known to them.

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FELIX SAUCEDA: George Alvarez is a Brownsville local with an extensive rap sheet.

DAVILA: Records show he had been charged with, among other things, burglary, sexual assault and assaulting a police officer. Alvarez's toxicology report is still pending, and Sauceda says his charges could grow.

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SAUCEDA: So it is an ongoing investigation. And yes, absolutely, charges can change, and charges can be added.

DAVILA: The Ozanam Center, where the victims were staying the night before they were killed, is assisting the city and notifying their families.

For NPR News, I'm Gaige Davila in Brownsville.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Gaige Davila