January 15, 2023

A Texas National Guardsman assigned to the Texas state government’s “Operation Lone Star” border mission, Spc. Angel Gallegos, shot and wounded a migrant under still-unclear circumstances near McAllen. Military Times and the Texas Tribune reported:

The shooting took place around 4:20 a.m. Sunday, after two Guardsmen joined Border Patrol agents and a trained dog who tracked a group of migrants to an abandoned house. The soldiers entered the building where three of the four migrants surrendered, the report [an internal Texas Military Department document that the news outlets obtained] said.

According to the document, the fourth migrant tried to flee through a window and resisted when one of the soldiers tried to apprehend him. The migrant wrestled the service member to the ground, striking him with his fists and elbows, the document said. During the struggle, the Guard member drew his M17 pistol and shot the migrant in the left shoulder at close range as the migrant was falling on top of the soldier. The soldier fired once, the document said.

Though it is exceedingly rare for a soldier to fire on a civilian on U.S. soil, Texas state authorities were being opaque about what happened, the Associated Press reported nine days after the incident. The AP added, “Rod Kise, a Border Patrol spokesman, said the ‘shots fired’ incident was under review by Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Professional Responsibility.”

In July 2023, Military Times reported that the Texas Rangers, an investigative arm of Texas’s state Department of Public Safety, declined to bring civilian criminal charges against the Guardsman. “The Texas Military Department, which oversees Guard members on the mission, did not respond to questions about military discipline for Gallegos.”

It was a very rare case of a soldier or guardsman using deadly force against a civilian on U.S. soil. Spc. Gallegos claimed that his handgun went off accidentally during a scuffle with the migrant; the migrant, Ricardo Rodriguez Nieto, claimed that Gallegos shot him from across a room.

— Winkie, Davis, and James Barragan. “Migrant Shot and Injured by National Guard Soldier Patrolling Border.” Military Times, The Texas Tribune, January 19, 2023. <https://www.texastribune.org/2023/01/19/national-guard-migrant-shot-border/>.

— Weber, Paul J. “Texas Silent after Guard Member Shoots Migrant on Border.” Associated Press, January 24, 2023. <https://apnews.com/article/politics-texas-mexico-6f97a21533a0e4c85474a12c31fab97c>.

— Winkie, Davis. “Texas Guardsman Won’t Face Civilian Charges for Migrant Shooting.” Army Times, July 7, 2023. https://www.armytimes.com/news/your-army/2023/07/07/texas-guardsman-wont-face-civilian-charges-for-migrant-shooting/.

Sector(s): Rio Grande Valley


Event Type(s): Use of Force

Accountability Status: Under OPR Investigation

Victim Classification: Single Adult