A Texas National Guard soldier assigned to secure the U.S.-Mexico border was killed by a fellow soldier in an accidental shooting with his personal weapon Monday, Army Times has learned.
The servicemember — whose identity Army Times is withholding pending notification of his family — is the second Texas soldier assigned to Operation Lone Star to die in an accidental shooting since January, when a soldier accidentally killed himself on New Year’s Day.
He’s the sixth soldier linked to the mission to die since October, though four of those deaths were suicides.
According to documents obtained by Army Times, the soldier was sitting in the front seat of a parked car at Fort Clark Springs near Brackettville, Texas, where the unit was doing swim training, when he handed his handgun to a soldier sitting behind him.
The gun fired as the second soldier was taking it from his hands, sending a round through the seat and into the first soldier’s back, the documents stated.
Medics at the training site tried to resuscitate the soldier. Paramedics were on scene within 5 minutes of the shooting and called for helicopter evacuation to a trauma center in San Antonio, the documents added.
But it was too late, according to the documents, and the soldier was pronounced dead at the scene.
The Texas Military Department announced Monday afternoon that a soldier died in “non-mission-related incident today,” but did not detail how the soldier’s death occurred.
“We are deeply saddened by this loss,” said Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, the state’s top general. “We are focused on supporting the Soldier’s family and are providing all available resources.”
In another statement, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s office said Texas Rangers are investigating the incident.
“Our hearts are heavy at the news of the tragic death of a Texas Guardsman stationed at the border as part of Operation Lone Star,” Abbott said in the release. “The Texas Rangers will conduct a thorough investigation into this tragedy and the Texas Military Department is taking action to ensure such loss of life never happens again.”
Currently, troops assigned to Operation Lone Star are in possession of their personal firearms due to Texas’ strong firearms rights. All six of the deaths associated with the mission have been attributed to personal weapons.
There have been at least two other incidents where troops on the mission have negligently discharged their personal weapons, according to the documents, though neither shooting resulted in injuries.
A source familiar with operational planning told Army Times that the headquarters overseeing the mission “is working on a policy about personal weapons,” though it’s not clear what restrictions would be put in place and when.
Davis Winkie covers the Army for Military Times. He studied history at Vanderbilt and UNC-Chapel Hill, and served five years in the Army Guard. His investigations earned the Society of Professional Journalists' 2023 Sunshine Award and consecutive Military Reporters and Editors honors, among others. Davis was also a 2022 Livingston Awards finalist.