by Ashleigh N. Dye
A warden at a Texas detention center and his twin brother have been charged with shooting two migrants, one fatally, in the town of Sierra Blanca along the Mexican border on September 27, 2022. Michael Sheppard had been helming the West Texas Detention Facility (WTDF), which is privately operated by Louisiana-based LaSalle Corrections for federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). His twin, Mark Sheppard, accompanied his brother during the alleged homicide. Afterward, the pair attended a meeting of the local water board. Both of the 60-year-olds were arrested on September 29, 2022.
The brothers were jailed on manslaughter charges, and each bonded out for $250,000. But they were taken into custody again when additional charges were filed for assault with a deadly weapon. They were able to bond out on the second charge only after District Judge Roy Ferguson agreed to significantly lower their cash bond amounts – to $75,000 for the alleged shooter, Mike Shephard, and $50,000 for his brother, Mark. The remaining bond amounts were rendered as personal recognizance, meaning no cash upfront but a promise to appear in court.
According to a surviving witness, a group of migrants was at a reservoir trying to get a drink when a pickup truck approached and stopped. They claim that the occupants yelled profanities at them in Spanish. Then shots rang out, one of which hit one of the men in the head and killed him. The other hit a migrant woman in the stomach, but she survived. The truck then drove off, allegedly taking the Shepard brothers to the local water board meeting.
Using a description given by the migrants and surveillance footage from a nearby camera, authorities were able to locate the truck at Michael Sheppard’s home. Initially he claimed he was nowhere near the scene of the shooting. However, his brother Mark said they were hunting, but the story of the game they were targeting changed from ducks to birds to javelins. When asked if they looked to see if they hit anything, they said no.
This is not the first time Michael Sheppard has been accused of abusing migrants. Migrant men held at WTDF claim they were pepper-sprayed, beaten and subjected to racial slurs. The allegations prompted a prosecutor to ask the FBI to investigate. He is no longer employed at WTDF due to “an off-duty incident,” ICE said.
Mark Shephard has early-onset dementia, after suffering a stroke in early 2022, according to his attorney, Richard Esper. The brothers were released on November 2, 2022, to await indictment in the slowly developing criminal case.
Sources: The Big Bend Sentinel, CNN, Marfa Public Radio, The Intercept, Texas Observer
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