Texas DPS Changes Helicopter Policy after Immigrants Shot Near La Joya


Jacqueline Armendariz
The Monitor
February 22, 2013

The head of the Texas Department of Public Safety denied its new policy prohibiting troopers in helicopters from shooting, unless they’ve been fired upon first, is connected to the fatal chase near La Joya nearly four months ago.

DPS Director Steve McCraw’s announcement Thursday surprised the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, which applauded the move. Hidalgo County District Attorney Rene Guerra said he supported the change, while adding that the case could go before a grand jury as early as mid-March.

The policy allowing troopers to shoot from helicopters was the only one of its kind among law enforcement agencies in Southwestern border states. It came under scrutiny after Trooper Miguel Avila fatally shot two Guatemalan immigrants during a helicopter chase near La Joya in October 2012. A third immigrant was injured.

[...] The new DPS policy states an officer must reasonably believe a suspect has used, or is about to use, deadly force against law enforcement and bystanders. Aggressive or reckless driving to evade arrest is not considered use of a deadly weapon, according to the DPS policy.

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