Authorities in Texas are investigating the mass shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso on Saturday as a possible hate crime, the city’s police chief said.
A gunman killed 20 people and injured 26 others after he opened fire at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, state and city officials said
The suspected gunman has not been publicly named, but two law enforcement officials identified him to The Associated Press as 21-year-old Patrick Crusius of Allen, Texas. It was unclear what connection the suspect had to El Paso. Texas state lawmaker Jeff Leach said in a tweeted statement that the suspect graduated from Plano Senior High School in 2017.
More than a dozen law enforcement officials were seen Saturday evening surrounding a home in Allen, which is about 26 miles north of Dallas. The group included agents from the FBI, Texas Department of Public Safety and federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. A woman answered the door after a group of officers knocked. They appeared to speak with her briefly and then she closed the door. A short time later, the door reopened and officers entered.
Neighbor Alice Baland, who lives four houses down, told The Associated Press a retired couple lives at the home associated with the suspect. She described them as sweet people who regularly attend church.
Chief Allen said investigators were examining a manifesto that may have been written by the suspect and would indicate a “nexus to a hate crime,” but declined to offer details. The suspect will likely face capital murder charges, Allen said.
The majority of the victims were shot inside the Walmart, according to Gomez. More than 100 employees and between 1,000 and 3,000 Saturday morning back-to-school shoppers were inside the store at the time, according to a preliminary estimate.
A spokesperson for El Paso’s Del Sol Medical Center said that 11 victims ranging in age from 35 to 82 were being treated at the facility. University Medical Center of El Paso received an additional 13 victims — two of whom were children, ages 2 and 9, who were stabilized and transferred to El Paso Children’s Hospital, according to officials.
A hospital spokesperson said that nine patients were in critical condition and three had life-threatening injuries.
Allen, the police chief, said the first 911 call came in at 10:39 a.m. local time, and that emergency responders were on the scene at 10:45.
The shooting began in the parking lot outside the Walmart, according to an eyewitness who said she heard gunshots as she drove through the parking lot with her mother.
Shopper Vanessa Saenz described the shooter in an interview with ABC News Radio as dressed in cargo pants and a black t-shirt, wearing ear protectors and said he looked like he was “dancing.”
Moments later, Saenz saw a woman a few feet away fall to the ground.
She then described seeing victims near the shooter who became cornered — with nowhere to run — and then watched the gunman raise a rifle, aim it at them and start firing.
“The one thing I’ll never forget is the way he walked into Walmart, very confident. He was on a mission and that’s when it hit me,” she later told ABC News anchor Tom Llamas in an interview for “World New Tonight.”
At 12:11 p.m. local time, the El Paso Police Department had issued a tweet that said in part, “We have multi reports of multiple shooters.”
Scene is still Active. We have multi reports of multiple shooters. Please avoid area police conducting search of a very large area. Media staging will be given when area is secure.
— EL PASO POLICE DEPT (@EPPOLICE) August 3, 2019
Police had reports that there were shootings at various locations within the mall, and initially said they had detained three suspects, but Gomez later clarified that just one person had been arrested.
“At this time, we do have one person in custody. We don’t believe there’s anybody outstanding,” he said.
The Walmart is located at the Cielo Vista Mall, one of the city’s most popular malls, particularly among Mexican tourists who cross the U.S. border to shop there before returning to Mexico.
At least three Mexican nationals were killed in the attack, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said.
Walmart issued a statement about the shooting on the retailer’s Twitter account.
“We’re in shock over the tragic events at Cielo Vista Mall in El Paso,” the statement said. “We’re praying for the victims, the community & our associates, as well as the first responders. We’re working closely with law enforcement & will update as appropriate.”
President Donald Trump has been briefed on the shooting and is monitoring the situation, according to White House Deputy Press Secretary Steven Groves.
In a tweet, the president said he had spoken with Gov. Abbott and pledged “total support of Federal Government,” before ending the message ‘God be with you all!’
Terrible shootings in ElPaso, Texas. Reports are very bad, many killed. Working with State and Local authorities, and Law Enforcement. Spoke to Governor to pledge total support of Federal Government. God be with you all!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 3, 2019
“On a day that would have been a normal for someone to leisurely go shopping turned into one of the most deadly days in the history of Texas. Lives were taken who should still be with us today,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott told the evening news conference. “We as a state unite in support of these victims and their family members.”
Rep. Veronica Escobar, who represents Texas’s 16th Congressional District, said at the same event that while investigators must complete an investigation, the “manifesto” suggested the shooting could have been an act of “domestic terrorism.”
“The manifesto narrative is fueled by hate, and it’s fueled by racism and bigotry and division,” Escobar said. “This is someone who came from outside of our community to do us harm. A community that has shown nothing but generosity and kindness to the least among us — those people arriving at America’s front door.”