(Facebook/Kinney County Sheriff Brad Coe)

Kinney County Sheriff to Buy Pepper Ball Guns for Deterring Migrants Who ‘Try To Storm The Point of Entry’

Following the Texas National Guard’s example, the border county approved the purchase of “less lethal” weapons using state funds.


Following the lead of the Texas National Guard, the Kinney County Sheriff’s Office is buying pepper ball and tear gas launcher rifles to potentially use against migrants to prevent them from crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

At a county commissioner’s meeting on Monday, Kinney commissioners approved the sheriff’s request to buy four “less lethal” rifles using state grant money provided by the Legislature in 2023. 

Sheriff Brad Coe said his deputies will carry the weapons “in the event that something happens like what happened in El Paso,” apparently referring to a confrontation at the El Paso border in March where a couple hundred migrants tore down a chain link fence, pushed past National Guard soldiers, and rushed into Texas.

The model of rifle—called the Byrna Mission 4—can be loaded with projectiles that launch pepper balls or tear gas. The Kinney County Sheriff’s Office will be purchasing both, a spokesperson confirmed. Byrna previously donated 15 pistol versions of the pepper ball guns to the department, Coe said at the meeting.

He indicated to commissioners that the department may use the guns in other scenarios. 

“There’s a couple of upcoming elections, if there’s some type of incident, or if they try to storm the point of entry, or if they try to come across … we can assist,” Coe said. “Hopefully, we will never have to use them, but we will have them just in case.” Coe did not respond to a request for comment.

Kinney County, a sparsely populated area including a small stretch of the border between Del Rio and Eagle Pass, is following the lead of the Texas National Guard with its purchase of “less lethal” weapons. After the confrontation between migrants and Texas soldiers in El Paso, the Texas Military Department rushed to buy dozens of pepper ball guns, ammunition, and other related equipment, according to purchase records

Texas National Guard soldiers have since shot pepper balls to deter migrants from crossing the border. Migrants have told the Texas Tribune that they’ve been hit and injured by the fired projectiles, and that Texas soldiers have also shot pepper balls even when hundreds of asylum-seekers were sleeping in an encampment on the Mexican side.

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The Texas Civil Rights Project criticized Coe’s plans to purchase pepper ball guns. 

“The approval of these weapons and the sheriff’s stated intent to use them on people seeking safety at the border is cruel and dangerous,” Danny Woodward, a Texas Civil Rights Project legal fellow said in an emailed statement. “The Kinney County Sheriff’s Office has been emboldened by their participation in Operation Lone Star, and this approval is a clear sign that they will continue trying dangerous tactics to push the boundaries of their authority. These weapons, touted to be less lethal, can cause serious injuries and even death.”

Sheriff Coe’s department has been the subject of legal action over its treatment of migrants arrested on criminal trespassing charges. In 2023, the ACLU of Texas sued Kinney County, Sheriff Coe, Val Verde County and its sheriff, a state contractor, and other officials on behalf of migrants who’d been arrested under Operation Lone Star and detained well after their trespassing charges had been dropped.

Coe’s department has also faced criticism over its relationship with border vigilantes from migrant justice activists and The Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection, a nonpartisan legal group.

Terry Anderson, a member of the North Texas-based vigilante group Patriots for America, openly carried a weapon in front of a Kinney County Sheriff’s Office deputy in December 2021, as revealed by a Texas Observer and Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting investigation earlier this year. Anderson, who has previous criminal convictions, was arrested in March 2022 by the Texas Department of Public Safety—not the sheriff’s office—in Kinney County, on charges of being a felon in illegal possession of firearms and metal body armor. His jury trial is scheduled for next month in Del Rio. 

The commissioner’s court also approved an agenda item allowing Chris Hajec and the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) to pursue potential litigation on behalf of Kinney County “related to the non-enforcement of immigration laws.” Hajec declined to comment.

IRLI is the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a far-right nonprofit that lobbies for immigration restrictions.