20 people killed in El Paso shooting; 21-year-old suspect in custody
Updated Sunday at 11 a.m.
Twenty people are dead and 26 were wounded in a mass shooting at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart on Saturday morning, according to state and local authorities.
Speaking at a news conference, Gov. Greg Abbott said that what should have been a leisurely day of shopping “turned into one of the most deadly days in the history of Texas.”
“We pray that God will be with those who’ve been harmed in any way,” he added.
Unnamed officials identified the suspect as Patrick Crusius, according to The Associated Press. But neither Abbott nor other agency officials at a press conference on Saturday evening confirmed the suspect’s identity.
They did say the suspect is a 21-year-old white male who traveled about 650 miles from Allen, Texas, to El Paso.
El Paso Police Department Chief Greg Allen said the suspect surrendered to authorities “upon being seen” outside of the Walmart where the shooting took place.
Allen said the department is working with state troopers and the FBI to determine whether the massacre in the diverse border community was a hate crime.
“We are going to aggressively prosecute it, both as capital murder but also as a hate crime, which is exactly what it appears to be without having seen all the evidence yet,” Abbott said.
“We have to be very, very clear that conduct like this, thoughts like this, actions like this, crimes like this, are not who or what Texas is and will not be accepted here,” the governor added.
Authorities in Texas offered no immediate details about the identities of the victims.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador confirmed three Mexican nationals were among those killed in the attack.
El Paso borders Mexico’s Ciudad Juarez, which has become a fulcrum of the migrant crisis, as asylum-seekers aiming to cross into the United States await processing.
“There is a fraternal coexistence between those who live in Ciudad Juarez and El Paso,” López Obrador said in a video posted to Twitter.
Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard tweeted that six Mexicans were among the injured, including a 10-year-old girl.
The shooting marked the third major mass shooting in Texas in the past two years. In November 2017, 26 people were killed at a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs. The following May, 10 were killed at a high school in Santa Fe.
The motive of the shooter in Saturday’s attack remains unknown.
Police are trying to learn whether a four-page manifesto that has surfaced online was written by the suspect.
FBI Special Agent in Charge Emmerson Buie said the agency is not ready to label the attack an act of terrorism or to declare a hate crime investigation.
Police say the shootings began at 10:39 a.m. local time, at the Walmart next to Cielo Vista Mall. Police were on scene six minutes later. Video from witnesses captured rapid and repeated firing inside the building.
Videos of what appears to be the apprehension are circulating online. They match surveillance images of a man walking into a building with a raised rifle.
Police Sgt. Robert Gomez said no law enforcement agents fired their weapons during the confrontation with the suspect.
Gomez added that most of the victims were wounded at Walmart, which was crowded with shoppers. He estimated that about 100 employees were in the store.
Other federal agencies, including Border Patrol and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, are in El Paso assisting with the investigation. Former El Paso-area congressman and Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke cut short a campaign trip to return home.
The 26 injured were sent to two area hospitals: University Medical Center and Del Sol Medical Center. At least two victims are children, and 10 remain in critical condition. One person died at UMC.
Reporter Monica Ortiz Uribe, in an interview with NPR’s All Things Considered,described the store as one of the busiest Walmarts in the city. The store is located in a major commercial area, next door to the Cielo Vista Mall, near a Sam’s Club and a movie theater.
“In addition to local shoppers, this is a site that attracts lots of Mexican nationals,” Uribe said. The U.S.-Mexico border and sister city, Ciudad Juarez, are about a 15-minute drive from the store.
“On weekends, you’ll hear English and Spanish in the aisles and see Mexican plates in the parking lot,” she said.
“This area was full of families that were shopping for back-to-school, getting backpacks and school supplies when this gunman unleashed this tragic horror on our community,” state Rep. César Blanco, who represents the El Paso area in the Texas House of Representatives, told NPR. “And it’s something we’re not going to get over for quite some time.”
Walmart, one of the nation’s largest gun retailers, tweeted that the company is cooperating with officials and extended prayers to those affected.
We’re in shock over the tragic events at Cielo Vista Mall in El Paso, where store 2201 & club 6502 are located. 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.
— Walmart (@Walmart) August 3, 2019
Gomez said law enforcement, which includes Border Patrol, FBI and SWAT officers, were clearing the area of bystanders and “ruling out that no one is a suspect.”
“We won’t rule out multiple [suspects] until we have a concrete investigation based on all the facts … so it can change,” Gomez told reporters.
Mayor Dee Margo called the incident a tragedy in an emotional CNN appearance.
“It is a tragedy beyond tragedies, and I would not ever have expected it here, and I’m just torn up about it,” Margo said.
Late Saturday afternoon, President Trump tweeted that he had spoken with Abbott and wrote “reports are very bad, many killed.” He pledged “total support of Federal Government.”
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
Earlier in the day, officials said they had received reports of multiple shooters at multiple locations at the busy shopping complex near the Cielo Vista Mall.
“Scene is still active,” police wrote on Twitter around noon, urging people to stay away as “police [are] conducting a search of a very large area.”
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
Enrique Duenas Aguilar, a fire department spokesman, told NPR that all of the surrounding businesses, including the Cielo Vista Mall, were placed on lockdown.
Mistey Garcia, who works at a nearby restaurant, said people were instructed to shelter in place.
“Right now, we’re all told to stay in the back, away from the windows, and we’re watching the news quietly,” she told ABC News earlier Saturday.
Another restaurant employee, Adrian Loera, said Walmart employees ran for their lives, seeking shelter at nearby businesses.
“They’re just hidden away in the banquet room over there, and they’re calling their loved ones, either trying to get a ride home or trying to get out of here,” Loera said.
Beto O’Rourke, a former congressman from El Paso and current 2020 presidential candidate, arrived in his hometown on Saturday to address the aftermath of the shooting. He told NPR that he has always known El Paso as a safe and community-driven city. It averages only 18 murders a year.
“To lose 20 lives in just a day yesterday is something so out of the ordinary but something that this community met with extraordinary strength,” O’Rourke said.
O’Rourke said that the gunman, who came from outside of El Paso to execute the attack, was fueled by hatred and racism. He said that while reforming gun laws is a crucial step in preventing more mass shootings, the country has to recognize the white nationalist ideologies that are spurring individuals to commit these crimes.
“It’s really important for us to understand this in a much larger context of what’s happening in this country,” O’Rourke said. “Especially at a time when we have a president who seeks to make us afraid of one another based on our differences … it doesn’t just offend our sensibilities as a country of immigrants and asylum-seekers. I really believe it is changing our country right now. It is an invitation to hatred. And not just to hatred but to violence.”
This is a developing story. Some things that get reported by the media will later turn out to be wrong. We will focus on reports from police officials and other authorities, credible news outlets and reporters who are at the scene. We will update as the situation develops.