ICE blames politics, opponents' rhetoric for shootings at San Antonio offices

"Had the bullets gone two inches in another direction, we could be here today talking about the murder of a federal official," an FBI official said.
Image: ICE building in San Antonio
Investigators say multiple shots were fired at two floors targeting ICE officials in San Antonio on Aug. 13, 2019.Google

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By Alex Johnson

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Tuesday blamed "political rhetoric" and "misinformation" about President Donald Trump's detention policies after shots were fired into two buildings housing ICE offices in San Antonio overnight.

No one was injured, but "had the bullets gone two inches in another direction, we could be here today talking about the murder of a federal official," Christopher Combs, the FBI's special agent in charge in San Antonio, said.

Investigators said at a news conference that multiple shots were fired into the offices of ICE's Immigration Enforcement and Removal division about 3 a.m.

The regional office of The GEO Group Inc., a private prison company that operates ICE detention facilities, is in the same building. Emily Covington, a spokeswoman for the company, said Wednesday that GEO's office was also hit but that there were no injuries.

"This is yet another act of violence against GEO employees, driven by misinformation about the services the company provides and by escalating rhetoric from activists," Covington said.

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ICE said in a statement that shots were fired into a second nearby building that also houses ICE-related offices. The address of that building wasn't specified.

"All of the shots that we have found are on the floors where ICE had offices," Combs said, adding, "They knew what floors ICE was on, they knew what buildings they were in, and they hit those."

He called the shootings "cowardly, brazen, violent acts, absolutely without justification."

Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of Citizenship and Immigration Services, a related agency of the Department of Homeland Security, posted a photo on Twitter of what he said was a bullet hole in a window at one of the targeted offices.

Daniel Bible, ICE's director of enforcement and removal operations in San Antonio, declined to say whether he thought the agency's enforcement policies might have led to the shootings.

"I don't feel anything about this," Bible told reporters. "Once the investigation is done, we'll know more."

But ICE said later in a statement released through the San Antonio office: "Political rhetoric and misinformation that various politicians, media outlets and activist groups recklessly disseminate to the American people regarding the ICE mission only serve to further encourage these violent acts."

"ICE officers put their lives on the line each and every day to keep our communities safe," the statement said. "This disturbing public discourse shrouds our critical law enforcement function and unnecessarily puts our officers' safety at risk."

Combs of the FBI said investigators were concerned that there could be further attacks.

"We cannot allow political discourse to lead us to the point of violence, where federal employees, innocent people doing their jobs, are put in harm's way," he said.