HOUSTON – A 21-year-old gunman armed with an assault rifle opened fire at a crowded Walmart store in the southern border town of El Paso in Texas, killing 20 people and wounding several others, in the latest mass shooting in the United States.
“The ages and genders of all these people injured and killed are numerous in the age groups,” El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen said. “The situation, needless to say, is a horrific one.”
For several minutes on Saturday morning, the packed Walmart store, where shoppers were busy buying back to school stuff for their kids, filled with gun smoke and the echo of gunfire.
Workers and customers, some bloodied, fled out the doors. Others huddled in the aisles or on the ground. Footage shot on mobile phones appeared to show multiple bodies lying on the ground in the store’s parking lot.
Twenty people were killed and 26 others injured in the shooting, said Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
“Texas grieves for the people of El Paso,” 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.”
President Donald Trump condemned the attack as an “act of cowardice” and said there could be no justification for the killing of innocent people.
“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. Melania and I send our heartfelt thoughts and prayers to the great people of Texas,” Trump tweeted.
Marcelo Ebrard, the secretary of foreign affairs of Mexico, said six Mexican nationals were among the injured.
Local hospitals are treating patients from the scene.
Victor Guerrero, a spokesman for Del Sol Medical Center, said the hospital was treating 11 victims. Nine were in critical but stable condition and two were stable, he said. Patient ages ranged from 35 to 82.
The University Medical Centre of El Paso received 13 patients, according to Ryan Mielke, the hospital’s spokesman. He said two minors, including a two-year-old, were stabilized and transferred to El Paso Children’s Hospital.
Mielke said the victims’ conditions ranged from minor injury to fatal.
The authorities identified the gunman as Patrick Crusius from an affluent Dallas suburb. He was taken into custody after he surrendered to the police outside the Walmart store.
The authorities said they were investigating a manifesto Crusius, who is white, may have posted before the shooting, which described an attack in response to “the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
The manifesto is filled with white nationalist language and racist hatred toward immigrants and Latinos, blaming immigrants and first-generation Americans for taking away jobs.
Citing a source familiar with the investigative process, the CNN said that the FBI has opened a domestic terrorism investigation into the shooting to be worked concurrent to the state investigation, with Texas authorities taking the lead.
The FBI, the source indicated, is surging resources from neighboring satellite offices in Texas and assets are on standby to assist should the state request.
A Twitter account that appeared to belong to Crusius was shut down Saturday evening. Tweets on the account had praised Trump and, in particular, his effort to build a wall along the US-Mexico border.
Local media reported that Crusius briefly attended Liberty High School and went on to graduate from Plano Senior High School. In 2017, he started to attend Collin College, a community college in McKinney, Texas, according to a statement released by the college.
The FBI is asking witnesses who took photos or videos during the shooting to submit their unedited media to them for examination.
It was the second fatal shooting in less than a week at a Walmart store in the US. Two people were shot and killed at a Walmart store in Southaven, Mississippi, south of Memphis on Tuesday, and three people were killed by gunfire Sunday at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in northern California.
“I can’t believe I’m sending a note like this twice in one week,” Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said in a message posted an Instagram. “My heart aches for the community in El Paso, especially for the associates and customers at store 2201 and the families of the victims of today’s tragedy.”
The gunfire that tore through a Walmart jammed with back-to-school shoppers on Saturday marked another bleak milestone in a nation pocked by gun violence: the 250th mass shooting of 2019.
And the rampage in El Paso notched an even darker statistic: It occurred on the 215th day of the year, meaning there have been more mass shootings than days so far this year.
The massacre at the Walmart near the Cielo Vista Mall became the nation’s latest mass shooting as defined by the Gun Violence Archive, a not-for-profit organization that provides online public access to information about gun-related violence.
The archive categorizes mass shootings as incidents in which four or more people were shot or killed, not including the shooters. So far this year, 522 people have died in mass shootings and 2,040 have been injured, according to the data.
El Paso has long been both a cultural and political symbol of Hispanic Texas. The city has had a binational feel because of its proximity and ties to its sister city in Mexico, Ciudad Ju rez, and has been in the national spotlight for months. Thousands of Central American families have flooded the city and surrounding areas seeking asylum.