The Texas Department of Public Safety got itself in a bit of a public relations mess last October when state troopers in a helicopter tracking a red pickup suspected of smuggling illegal immigrants opened fire, killing two Guatemalans and raising inevitable questions about the appropriateness of a law enforcement agency raining down bullets from above.
Turns out, such aerial assaults were written into DPS policy. Agency Director Steve McCraw told the San Antonio Express-News that the measure was put in place to protect officers patrolling the Mexican border.
"That's what our aerial assets are doing, and we need to protect those aerial assets and in doing so, we put a sniper on those," he told the paper. "And we're really not apologetic about it. We've got an obligation to protect our men and women when we're trying to protect Texas."
McCraw still isn't apologetic. At a Texas House hearing on Thursday, he continued to defend the October incident, saying he's a "firm believer they did exactly what they thought they needed to do and they looked at the totality of circumstances and were consistent with Texas penal code," according to the Express-News.
That said, the DPS has changed its policy so that snipers are no longer instructed to open fire on fleeing suspects. A DPS spokesman was quick to tell the paper that the policy amendment was "not a reflection of the circumstances involving last year's officer-involved shooting in Hidalgo County," but that seems unlikely.
Either way, the bottom line is the same: The only fleeing creature that can legally be shot from a helicopter is a feral hog.