EL PASO, Texas (AP) — Twenty people were killed and more than two dozen injured in a shooting Saturday in a busy shopping area in the Texas border town of El Paso, the state’s governor said.
Among the possibilities being investigated is whether it was a hate crime, the police chief said. Two law enforcement officials who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity identified the suspect taken into custody as 21-year-old Patrick Crusius. El Paso police haven’t released his name, but confirmed the gunman is from Allen near Dallas.
Police said another 26 people were injured and most were being treated at hospitals. Most of the victims were believed to have been shot at a Walmart near the Cielo Vista Mall, they said, adding that the store was packed with as many as 3,000 people during the busy back-to-school shopping season.
“The scene was a horrific one,” said El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen, who described many of those hurt as having life-threatening injuries. He also said police found a post online that may have been written by the suspect — one reason authorities are looking at whether it was a hate crime.
El Paso, which has about 680,000 residents, is in West Texas and sits across the border from Juarez, Mexico.
Residents were quick to volunteer to give blood to the injured after the shooting, and police and military members were helping people look for missing loved ones.
“It’s chaos right now,” said Austin Johnson, an Army medic at nearby Fort Bliss, who volunteered to help at the shopping center and later at a school serving as a reunification center.
Adriana Quezada, 39, said she was in the women’s clothing section of Walmart with her two children when she “heard shots.”
“But I thought they were hits, like roof construction,” she said.
Her 19-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son threw themselves to the ground, then ran out of the store through an emergency exit. They were not hurt, Quezada said.
She said she saw four men, dressed in black, moving together firing guns indiscriminately. Police later said they believed the suspect was the “sole shooter” but were continuing to investigate reports that others were involved.
El Paso police Sgt. Robert Gomez said the suspect, who used a rifle, was arrested without incident.
The shooting came less than a week after a gunman opened fire on a California food festival. Santino William Legan, 19, killed three people and injured 13 others last Sunday at the popular Gilroy Garlic Festival, and died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Read more from AP News.
FBI opens domestic terror investigation into the El Paso shooting
From CNN’s Josh Campbell
A source familiar with the investigative process says the FBI has opened a domestic terrorism investigation into the mass shooting in El Paso 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.
Trump condemns ‘hateful act’ in El Paso
President Donald Trump called the mass shooting Saturday an “act of cowardice,” and said there “are no reasons or excuses that will ever justify killing people.”
He ended his two-tweet message by saying both he and first lady Melania Trump sent “heartfelt thoughts and prayers to the great people of Texas.”
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
Where the shooting took place
The shooting took place at the Walmart, near the Cielo Vista Mall, Sgt. Robert Gomez, an El Paso police spokesman, told reporters.
Police began receiving reports of an active shooter around 10 a.m. (noon ET). Police received multiple calls from stores at the mall complex, where Walmart sits.
In a shaky Snapchat video aired by CNN, a woman holding the camera runs through a mall department store and into a parking lot.
As the group hurries past racks of clothes and cases of merchandise, voices off camera shout, “Hands up!”
Another video, shot from outside the Walmart, showed people lying on the ground, some of them next to a table set up by the store’s entrance.
Gomez said it’s estimated that up to 3,000 shoppers and 100 employees were inside the Walmart at the time of the shooting.