"We’re using tactics and equipment that you will see in war zones.”
September 19, 2015 9:16 AM   Subscribe

Death on Sevenmile Road
The rush to militarize the U.S.-Mexico border has tragic consequences in Texas.
posted by andoatnp (30 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
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posted by lalochezia at 9:49 AM on September 19, 2015


Don't mess with Texas.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 10:03 AM on September 19, 2015


Jesus. What the fuck, Texas? I couldn't even finish the story.
posted by languagehat at 10:09 AM on September 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


Repulsive. Jesus.
posted by Mavri at 10:12 AM on September 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


America, and least of all Texas, can't NOT be at War with anything.
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:59 AM on September 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


And the entire Republican presidential field wants to bring this exact same type of enforcement to every town in America.
posted by T.D. Strange at 11:09 AM on September 19, 2015 [8 favorites]


“I never imagined that in the United States they would treat people this way."
posted by threeants at 11:14 AM on September 19, 2015


Damn, that photo of the camouflaged helicopter sniper whose arm patch reads DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY is some chilling dystopian imagery.
posted by straight at 11:25 AM on September 19, 2015 [31 favorites]


I can't help but think of the kids who could have been educated or the sick people who could have been treated with all that money spent on this little operation.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:31 AM on September 19, 2015 [18 favorites]


I have a hard time imagining how terrifying life must be as a conservative. You end up with this sort of shit in response.
posted by maxwelton at 11:40 AM on September 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


Damn, that photo of the camouflaged helicopter sniper whose arm patch reads DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY is some chilling dystopian imagery.

What we see in this article is actually worse than using snipers. That's not a sniper rifle in the picture, it's (unless I'm mistaken) an M4 carbine. I don't see how it can be correct to call someone who's rapid-firing a short-barreled weapon out the side of a veering helicopter a marksman. The defenders of public safety are just spraying bullets ("at least 18 shots") in the general direction of their targets.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:52 PM on September 19, 2015 [10 favorites]


I know a person, now retired, who served a career in the US Coast Guard. And this person was at one time assigned to a position which offered policy advice to the command of the district which includes Texas' Gulf Coast. This person had a story from their working days in that position which comes to mind as I read the article linked from the write-up.

I don't know whether things have changed with the increasing militarization of the border, but at the time of this story in the area where the two nations border it was apparently not that unusual for small private fishing boats from the Mexican side to intrude into waters that the USA claims exclusive rights over. And when the Coast Guard felt that they had detected a boat operating illegally in US waters, they would send a patrol launch out to intercept that boat. Predictably, the boats they set out to intercept would often try to retreat back across into water under Mexican jurisdiction, so often these interceptions would turn into chases.

After reviewing footage from a number of incidents, this person that I know made the recommendation that the circumstances under which such interceptions were initiated should be curtailed considerably and that most of them should stop. This wasn't popular advice -- officers of the US Coast Guard understandably take seriously, as one of their core service values, the mission to guard the USA's coast.

But.. the materials which the person I know and their colleagues had reviewed included multiple examples of patrols of young Coasties in high-powered patrol vessels nearly running down fishermen in small boats who were just trying to make it back into Mexican waters. It was clear that it was only a matter of time before something unfortunate and possibly fatal took place and the threat that was being suppressed in most cases was not worth the risk of causing that.

As it was explained to me, enforcement scenarios such as the one described in the article arise over time from what start out as reasonable practices. Few or none of the law enforcement in these stories started out with the intention of becoming a mustache-twirling villain who hunts economic migrants from the sky with a high-powered sniper rifle.

What happens instead is that hot pursuit is a very intense and exciting state. Judgment can become distorted and frustration over the ones who got away the last time leads to just a bit more stretching on what's allowed the next time. And if/when that doesn't immediately cause problems it becomes part of the new normal. As a result there's an inevitable ratcheting up of security procedures over time and it's hard to back them off until something horrible happens, like firing into a truck filled with unarmed migrants, at which point you're often so far from the line that was crossed that it can no longer even be seen from where you are now standing.

Back in the time of my story, the person I know and their colleagues in the Coast Guard understood that, and recommended policies that were meant to minimize the chance for tragedy. I hope, but don't strongly expect, that the restrictions they imposed are still in force, but even at that time (which was I think was pre-9/11) the constraints were not popular and were resisted by the units in the areas affected -- I believe they had to threaten to take away their patrol craft until they agreed to abide by the new policies. And the situation along the border has gotten rapidly worse since that time.

Tragedies such as the one described in the article are an inevitable part of our border-control policy the way we are currently doing things. The men who were part of this operation certainly bear responsibility for shooting into the truck. But we should never accept blame-shifting from above that "nobody could have foreseen this happening" or "you shouldn't judge the whole border patrol based on a few bad apples." It is absolutely foreseeable that when you give agents helicopters and high-powered rifles that they are going to be used and that is why we need very clear controls on such things and strong restrictions, with teeth behind them, on the rules of engagement. Don't ever accept the "nobody could ever have imagined this.." excuse from the leadership of these organizations. It is their job to imagine such scenarios and to put in place policies that will prevent them.
posted by Nerd of the North at 12:58 PM on September 19, 2015 [43 favorites]


Can someone explain why a guy in a helicopter needs camouflage? Or is it just another example of how absurd the whole situation is? (Or would be absurd, if people weren't getting killed, which makes it more tragic.)
posted by TedW at 1:58 PM on September 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


Director McCraw went on the defensive, saying in a press release that the truck had been speeding toward two schools less than 3 miles away and therefore posed “an immediate threat to the school children and motoring public.”

What a brazen load of bullshit. Even if you buy the "for the children" argument, the schools are a block or two from the highway.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 2:13 PM on September 19, 2015


lungful of dragon, that sort of unthinking jingoism is part of the problem with Texas.

It doesn't help when you applaud the state's murderous disregard for non-white lives.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:25 PM on September 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure lod was being sarcastic.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 2:35 PM on September 19, 2015 [5 favorites]


The federal government is just as responsible for shit like this as Texas is. As is stated in the article, heavy weaponry and armored vehicles are supplied to the the state at a deep discount by the DoD. This practice needs to stop but won't as long as our military is engaged in an endless, unwinnable war where profit has to come from anywhere it can.
posted by item at 2:53 PM on September 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


I believe President Obama has ordered the DoD to stop selling military hardware to police. They may still be able to get rifles, I'm not sure.
posted by postel's law at 3:35 PM on September 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


What we see in this article is actually worse than using snipers. That's not a sniper rifle in the picture, it's (unless I'm mistaken) an M4 carbine. I don't see how it can be correct to call someone who's rapid-firing a short-barreled weapon out the side of a veering helicopter a marksman. The defenders of public safety are just spraying bullets ("at least 18 shots") in the general direction of their targets.

I thought it was an M4 at first because the modular plastic stock looks very M4-like. However, the article claims it's a LaRue OBR rifle. On the photo you can see the LaRue logo (looks like Texas - go figure) on the lower receiver (between the ejector port and the magazine).

LaRue is not a brand I'm familiar with - guess it's a Texas-based company.
posted by theorique at 5:11 PM on September 19, 2015


Can someone explain why a guy in a helicopter needs camouflage?

So bad guys can't see him in the helicopter. Duh.

Also so that if the helicopter is shot down, by immigrants, with their anti-aircraft guns, the immigrants won't be able to find the cop and use him to sire anchor babies.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:02 PM on September 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


LaRue is not a brand I'm familiar with - guess it's a Texas-based company.

Their website says Leander, just outside of Austin.
posted by item at 6:12 PM on September 19, 2015


I'm pretty sure lod was being sarcastic.
Around these parts there's little doubt, but I've known too many folks who would say that about this article without any irony, and I 'm not even in Texas.
posted by Trinity-Gehenna at 6:20 PM on September 19, 2015


Hadn't clicked into that headline until MeFi. Wow, and WTF; and I'm glad that is nowhere near where I live.

Visualization: Two groups of people meet; one has weapons, and is on their own turf. Could have been worse, the truck could have been sawed into pieces with hundreds of rounds.

Too late to unclick.
posted by buzzman at 6:37 PM on September 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


lungful of dragon, that sort of unthinking jingoism is part of the problem with Texas.

That's not even the least of it, either.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 7:32 PM on September 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


Visualization: Two groups of people meet; one has weapons, and is on their own turf. Could have been worse, the truck could have been sawed into pieces with hundreds of rounds.

Your comment reminded me of the scene in Act of Valor, where the extraction team arrives in the (armed to the teeth) SOC-R boats, and eliminates an adversary vehicle with 7.62 mm fire from a M134 minigun.

From the video, the rifleman was probably shooting once every couple of seconds. The M134 delivers 3000 rounds per minute (or 50 per second). It's bad news against people and/or vehicles.

(I suppose it's some kind of comfort for those near the border that even Texas hasn't quite ascended to Navy Seal levels of militarization.)
posted by theorique at 5:15 AM on September 20, 2015


Oh, the Texas DPS is apparently a financial hot mess: Texas Attorney General Sues Self To Stop Self From Releasing Documents He Says Can't Be Released

When the DPS in March this year asked for another $123 million to help "secure the border," state Rep. Cesar Blanco blasted the DPS for taking credit for work done by the federal government, and failing to back up its claims with data.

"The state has nothing to show for its money," Blanco, D-El Paso, told El Paso Times on March 30.
According to the DPS, it was partnering with Customs and Border Patrol on a "surge" effort to stop illegal immigration and drug trafficking. The CBP, on the other hand, portrayed the so-called "partnership" as the DPS's attempt to do a little coattail-riding on an ongoing effort by the DHS agency. It claimed it had not participated in a joint effort with the state entity.

Two local newspapers started digging into the dubious claims the DPS was making to justify the need for more handouts. What they uncovered was some very dubious math.

"DPS merged Border Patrol's massive drug seizure statistics with its own to tout the operation's effectiveness," the American-Statesman reported in June, and when state lawmakers asked for "DPS-specific statistics," the DPS refused.

posted by T.D. Strange at 8:53 AM on September 20, 2015


I've got relatives in Texas. If Lungful of Dragon is satirizing them, he's doing it by sounding more reasonable than real Texans often do, so I encourage him/her to remember Poe's Law, and use the (sarc) tag.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:48 AM on September 20, 2015


"Don't Mess With Texas" is the slogan for a long-running anti-littering campaign with associated merchandise like t-shirts, bumper stickers, etc.
posted by grumpybear69 at 2:31 PM on September 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also, someone was recently shot while driving by a cop in a helicopter in California.
posted by grumpybear69 at 2:32 PM on September 20, 2015


I think there was a printing error on his top shoulder patch--the words appear to be in the wrong order.
posted by entropicamericana at 10:35 AM on September 21, 2015


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