Updated: August 4, 2019 8:40:08 am
Twenty people were killed and more than 25 were injured in a shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, on Saturday. The gunman, identified as a 21-year-old male, has been arrested. The rampage comes six days after a teenage gunman killed three people at a food festival in Northern California.
For several minutes, the packed Walmart near the Cielo Vista Mall on the city’s East Side filled with gun smoke and the echo of gunfire. Many of those in the busy store were buying back-to-school supplies when they were caught up in the rampage.
US President Donald Trump said on Twitter that the reports from El Paso were “very bad, many killed.” “Today’s shooting in El Paso, Texas was not only tragic, it was an act of cowardice,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “I know that I stand with everyone in this Country to condemn today’s hateful act. There are no reasons or excuses that will ever justify killing innocent people.”
Today’s shooting in El Paso, Texas was not only tragic, it was an act of cowardice. I know that I stand with everyone in this Country to condemn today’s hateful act. There are no reasons or excuses that will ever justify killing innocent people….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 4, 2019
“Texas grieves for the people of El Paso today,” Gov. Gregg Abbott told reporters. “On a day that would have been a normal day for someone to leisurely go shopping, turned into one of the most deadly days in the history of Texas.”
El Paso police chief Greg Allen said authorities had a manifesto from the suspect that indicates “there is a potential nexus to a hate crime.”
El Paso shooting: Who is the gunman?
The authorities identified the gunman as a 21-year-old who lived in a Dallas suburb. Authorities said they were investigating a manifesto the gunman may have posted before the shooting which described an attack in response to a “Hispanic invasion.”
The suspect was taken into custody without incident, according to authorities. Video posted on social media appeared to show him being handcuffed by police and placed in a squad car.
“Right now, we have a manifesto from this individual,” El Paso’s police chief, Greg Allen, told reporters, though he said law enforcement officers were still not clear whether the gunman had posted the document.
The document appeared to be referring to an anti-immigrant online screed titled The Inconvenient Truth. The posting declares support for the gunman who killed 51 in Christchurch, New Zealand, outlines fears about Hispanic people gaining power in the United States and appears to discuss specific details about elements of the attack, including weapons.
“Hispanics will take control of the local and state government of my beloved Texas, changing policy to better suit their needs,” the manifesto said. It added that politicians of both parties are to blame for the United States “rotting from the inside out,” but went on to say that “the heavy Hispanic population in Texas will make us a Democrat stronghold.”
Witnesses describe the violent scene
Multiple law enforcement agencies raced to the scene at the Walmart and nearby Cielo Vista Mall, including police, state troopers, Homeland Security agents and border patrol.
Shoppers fled for their lives, including Kianna Long who was at the Walmart with her husband when they heard gunfire. “People were panicking and running,” Long told news agency Reuters. “They were running close to the floor, people were dropping on the floor.” She and her husband sprinted through a stock room at the back of the store before sheltering with other customers in a steel container in a shipping area.
Walmart said in a statement: “We’re in shock over the tragic events at Cielo Vista Mall… We’re praying for the victims, the community & our associates, as well as the first responders.”
Local media said there was such an overwhelming response to an appeal by the police department for blood donations to help the wounded that long lines formed at medical centers, some of which had to tell would-be donors to come back on Sunday.
El Paso shooting shatters any illusion that we have that progress is inevitable: Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke
Presidential candidate and former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke appeared a bit shaken as he appeared at a candidate forum Saturday in Las Vegas shortly after news of the shooting in his hometown was reported. The Democrat said the shooting shatters “any illusion that we have that progress is inevitable” on tackling gun violence.
He said he heard early reports that the shooter might have had a military-style weapon, saying we need to “keep that (expletive) on the battlefield. Do not bring it into our communities.”
O’Rourke said he had spoken to his wife Amy, who was driving in the city with one of their children. Addressing reporters, he teared up and struggled to deliver a short statement.
“I am incredibly saddened and it’s very hard to think about this,” he said. “El Paso is the strongest place in the world. This community is going to come together. I’m going back there right now to be with my family, to be with my home town.”
El Paso has been at the center of the migrant crisis
El Paso has become a focal point of the immigration debate, drawing Trump in February to argue that walling off the southern border would make the U.S. safer, while city residents and O’Rourke led thousands on a protest march past the barrier of barbed wire-topped fencing and towering metal slats.
O’Rourke stressed that border walls haven’t made his hometown safer. The city’s murder rate was less than half the national average in 2005, the year before the start of its border fence. Before the wall project started, El Paso had been rated one of the three safest major U.S. cities going back to 1997.
(With inputs from agencies)
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