Gunman who threatened migrants outside El Paso church claimed he was ‘eyes for America’

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El Paso city officials had said in announcing Driscoll’s arrest and charges that a 9-1-1 caller, now identified as Sandragrace Martinez, reported the man harassing migrants outside the Sacred Heart Church on New Year’s Eve. The same caller spotted Driscoll roughly two hours later near a Greyhound station. While city officials didn’t say in their statement, it seemed likely he looking to harass more migrants, as the transportation line is frequently a mode of transportation for newly arrived migrants.

19-year-old Brayan was among those threatened by the gunman outside of the church. He told CNN that Driscoll called him over to his truck, with Brayan obliging. He thought the man was trying to help him. Instead, Driscoll threatened him far more aggressively than initially reported, shoving a gun in the migrant’s face, CNN said. Brayan said he understood nothing that Driscoll was screaming at him, other than the “fuck” expletive.

This is when Sandragrace Martinez, a volunteer at the church, stepped in and likely saved Brayan’s life. Martinez said Driscoll put down his gun. “He looked at my crucifix, and he looked at me and he said, ‘I don’t have a problem with you,’” she told CNN. “He said, ‘I’m eyes for America, and I’m here to see.’” Lots of vigilante vibes here.

Martinez’s testimony confirms that Driscoll was likely looking for more migrants to threaten. She was “traveling to the Greyhound bus station—another popular gathering spot for migrants—to warn them about the man in the truck, when she saw the truck pull up again.” She again alerted officers, who were stationed nearby. Driscoll fled and initially got away when the police unit was apparently disabled in some manner, officials said. But he was later located and arrested.

Driscoll faces other charges, including aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. FBI El Paso field office spokesperson Jeanette Harper said in a statement reported by CNN that other serious charges are also on the table. “If information comes to light of potential federal civil rights violations, the FBI is prepared to investigate,” the statement said. As previously noted, migrants who are victims of crime and who work with law enforcement could be eligible for humanitarian relief.

Incidents like this attempted shooting outside a church are the real-life consequences of rhetoric pushed by nativist figures. These are not fringe characters, either. Major Republican officials, like Texas’ own Greg Abbott and Ted Cruz, have refused to stop using the rhetoric espoused by racist mass killers. It is terrifying, yet not a shock, when vigilantes then show up at a church to point weapons at people simply looking for a warm place to sleep for the night as they seek new lives here.

“The Anti-Defamation League and the ACLU of Texas do not have statistics readily available on incidents of anti-immigrant hate, but in a 2022 complaint filed by the ACLU with the US Department of Justice, the ACLU expressed concerns about the rise in anti-immigrant hate in Texas,” CNN reported.

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