A family in northern Mexico has identified the migrant who was shot dead by a security guard and his twin brother after the group stopped to drink water along a farm road in west Texas last week.
Jesús Sepúlveda, 22, was fatally shot in the head after Mark and Michael Sheppard, both 60, opened fire on the migrants on Farm-to-Market Road 1111, four miles south of the town of Sierra Blanca on September 26.
Brenda Casias, 21, suffered a gunshot wound to the stomach. She was rushed to an El Paso hospital and is recovering.
The suspects were arrested on manslaughter charges last Thursday and were released after posting $250,000 bond each Monday.
The Texas Department of Public Safety said the migrants were drinking water from a reservoir when the Sheppard brothers pulled their truck over.
The group of 13 migrants took cover as the truck drove past, fearing they would be spotted. However, the driver put the vehicle in reverse before stopping and getting out to shoot the migrants hiding in the brush.
Mark Sheppard said his brother fired at what he thought was a javelin throw, according to court records.
The pig-like ungulate can be found in Central and South America as well as in southwestern parts of the United States. The animal averages about 3 feet in length and weighs between 40 and 80 pounds.
Jesús Sepúlveda, a 22-year-old migrant from Mexico, was shot and killed along a farm road in West Texas on September 27. He and 12 other migrants were getting water from a reservoir when they were spotted by 60-year-old twin brothers, Michael and Mark Sheppard. A witness told authorities that one of the Sheppard brothers yelled in Spanish for them to get out of the brush before Sepúlveda, a father-of-one, was shot. Another migrant, Brenda Casias, 21, was shot in the stomach and is recovering in an El Paso hospital
Michael Sheppard (pictured) and his twin brother Mark Sheppard each face a manslaughter charge in the death of Mexican migrant Jesús Sepúlveda on September 27 near Sierra Blanca, Texas.
Mark Sheppard told authorities that his brother shot at the migrants, mistaking them for a spear
The migrants told federal agents that one of the brothers yelled at them in Spanish to ‘get out’ before Sepúlveda Martínez and Casias Carrillo were shot, according to the New York Times. Mark Sheppard said he never approached the group.
Napoleón Sepúlveda told Border Report on Monday that his son had left their home in Ciudad Juárez to look for work in the United States and save money to build a home for his wife and child.
“His wish was to go to the other side to get a little further. We live in a small farming community where there is almost no work,” said Napoleón Sepúlveda. “He had just stayed with his wife. He did not have a house; he lived with me. His dream was to go out and save for his house, because here in Mexico the jobs are poorly paid.”
He pleaded with authorities on both sides of the border to help him obtain a humanitarian visa so he could travel to Texas to retrieve Jesús Sepúlveda’s body and bring it back to Mexico for burial.
Napoleón Sepúlveda (right) and Luz Maria Martínez (left) call on the US government to punish Mark and Michael Sheppard for the murder of their son, Jesús Sepúlveda. The 60-year-old brothers shot the 22-year-old after he and 12 other migrants stopped to look for drinking water near a farm road near Sierra Blanca, Texas, on September 27
Jesús Sepúlveda lived with his parents in Ciudad Juárez and migrated to the United States in search of a job that would allow him to save enough money to one day eventually build a house for his wife and daughter
Napoleón Sepúlveda called on the United States government to punish the Sheppard brothers.
“When people go to the United States, things sometimes go wrong,” he said. “I want the authorities to give those men the maximum sentence, not let them go free.”
Court records revealed that Michael Sheppard was the warden at the West Texas Detention Facility, a privately owned center that has housed migrant detainees.
A spokeswoman for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement told The Associated Press that no ICE detainers had been held at this detention facility since October 2019, following the opening of a larger detention facility nearby.
Scott Sutterfield, a spokesman for facility operator Lasalle Corrections, responded to an email from the AP asking if Sheppard had been fired as warden. Sutterfield said the warden had been fired “due to an off-duty incident unrelated to his employment.”
Sutterfield declined further comment, citing the “ongoing criminal investigation.”
A 2018 report by the University of Texas and Texas A&M immigration law clinics and the immigration advocacy group Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) cited multiple allegations of physical and verbal abuse against African migrants at the facility.
According to the report, the warden was “involved in three of the detainees’ reports of verbal threats as well as in cases of physical abuse.” The warden quoted in the report was not named.
U.S. Representative Veronica Escobar expressed concern that the shooting is a hate crime.
“I hope the Justice Department is investigating this as a hate crime,” the Democratic congresswoman from Texas told reporters on Friday. “This is something that many of us feared would happen because we have so many Republican politicians who are always talking about migrants in hateful terms to scare people, to scare the country, to portray migrants as criminals.”
Joaquin Castro, a Democratic congressman, went further by laying the blame on anti-immigration remarks often made by Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
“This was a hate crime against brown skinned immigrants inspired by the invasion rhetoric of @GovAbbott, @DanPatrick and others,” Castro tweeted. “The division and fear created by Greg Abbott and his fellow bigots has made Texas a more dangerous place for all Hispanics.”
“There was no way for the killers to know who their victims were or what their legal status was,” he added. “National leaders on both sides of the aisle need to condemn the rhetoric that inspired this attack, and Texas authorities must quickly prosecute this crime as murder.”