Texas border enforcement cops killed 74 people and wounded almost 200 more during vehicle chases over a 29-month period, according to a report released yesterday by Human Rights Watch. The chases occurred as part of Operation Lone Star, a controversial program that has spent over $10 billion in taxpayer funds to militarize Texas’ border with Mexico.
Operation Lone Star (OLS), which was launched in March 2021 by Gov. Greg Abbot, has devoted a tremendous amount of taxpayer dollars to increasing Texas’ border security, often using extreme tactics. Recently the program came under fire for using razor wire and blade-topped buoys on the Rio Grande in an attempt to keep out migrants.
The goal of the effort, according to a July press release , is to “secure the border; stop the smuggling of drugs, weapons, and people into Texas; and prevent, detect, and interdict transnational criminal behavior between ports of entry.” According to Human Rights Watch, as of March 2022, about one-third of the total Texas state police force had been deployed as part of OLS, with additional National Guard members from 14 other states joining the project.
“Across the United States, police departments have adopted restrictions on when law enforcement can engage in a vehicle pursuit,” the report reads, adding that the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) “has not restricted vehicle pursuits….Texas DPS and several other law enforcement agencies have engaged in dangerous and deadly pursuits on a weekly basis in the 60 counties implementing OLS or experiencing DPS deployments under OLS.”
According to the report, Texas Department of Public Safety troopers working under Operation Lone Star frequently engage in unnecessary vehicle chases and other dangerous driving maneuvers when attempting to make arrests. As a result, unnecessary police chases have increased by as much as 1,000 percent in some Texas counties.
Data analyzed by Human Rights Watch showed that over 80 percent of cases were instigated because of a traffic violation, with 97 percent of these violations being misdemeanors like speeding. According to the report, OLS chases had an average maximum speed of 91 miles per hour, with one in three reaching speeds of over 100 miles per hour.
In all, from March 2021 to July 2023, 74 drivers, passengers, or bystanders were killed in these chases, and 189 more were wounded. Those killed include seven bystanders, including a 7-year-old girl and her 71-year-old grandmother.
“Texans want our government to show us it can do its job, but Operation Lone Star and these dangerous and deadly car chases are bringing a sense of chaos and lack of humanity to my neighborhood and to my state,” Amerika Garcia Grewal, a resident of Eagle Pass, Texas, and member of Eagle Pass Border Coalition, told Human Rights Watch. “I want Texas law enforcement to stop killing people and I want Operation Lone Star to end. This is not the kind of government my community needs.”