Police shoot teen suspected of auto theft at Pharr bridge

Jacqueline Armendariz and Ildefonso Ortiz

PHARR — A Pharr police officer shot a 16-year-old Mexican national who attempted to plow through a southbound toll booth in a stolen vehicle Friday afternoon, police said.

The shooting occurred about 4:57 p.m. Friday at the entrance to the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge, said Sgt. Maribelle Garza, a Pharr police spokeswoman.

Pharr Police Chief Ruben Villescas said the teenaged male rammed into a vehicle ahead of him in line at the bridge, pushing it about 30 yards south past the toll booth. The officer attempted to stop the driver, but he tried to flee, Villescas said.

“At that point the officer felt that the family was in danger, and that he himself was in danger, and he discharged his weapon once into the vehicle through the driver door hitting the driver on the arm,” the chief said.

The teenager was rushed to a McAllen hospital, where he remained Friday evening, but was not critically injured.

“He’s in custody right now on charges of the stolen vehicle and with more charges pending against him for his actions that he took – striking the vehicle in front of him and the threat that he posed to the officers,” Villescas said.

Law enforcement at the bridge told The Monitor that the officer involved was dragged by a vehicle during the confrontation, but Villescas denied that information, saying the officer involved is “OK.”

A family — one adult and three children — were in the vehicle rammed by the teen and were interviewed by authorities.

Police suspected the white truck driven by the teen had been stolen because the door lock was damaged.

The vehicle is registered to an owner in Pharr, who was unaware it was taken at the time of the incident, Villescas said.

Auto theft is “lucrative” and criminals will “stop at nothing to try and cross” stolen cars, Villescas said.

“This is just another example of the problems we do have in our area because of our proximity to the border and to Mexico,” Villescas said.
The Texas Rangers are investigating whether the officer’s use of deadly force followed department policies, he said.

Bridge Director Jesse Medina said the bridge remained open despite the shooting, with one lane closed as police investigated the incident.

Police shoot teen suspected of auto theft at Pharr bridge | pharr, police, shooting - TheMonitor.com