A gunman opened fire at a Walmart and a nearby mall in El Paso, Texas, in a Saturday morning assault that killed at least 19 people and wounded 40, law enforcement officials told NBC News. One suspect was in custody.
Police identified the suspect as Patrick Wood Crusius, a resident of the Dallas area, who turned 21 last week, law enforcement sources told NBC.
El Paso Police Department Sgt. Robert Gomez said first reports of the shooting at a Walmart and the Cielo Vista Mall came in around 10 a.m. local time. Photos and videos on social media showed victims both inside and outside a Walmart SuperCenter located to the west of the mall, just across a parking lot. He would confirm only mulitple victims.
“Our hearts go out to those that have been injured…families of those who may have been killed,” ” El Paso Mayor Dee Margo said.
Earlier, the mayor had said police had captured three suspects, but according to police, just one person, a male, was in custody.
“At this time, we have ruled out multiple shooters,” Gomez said. “It’s still active, but as of right now, we have one person in custody.”
He said that police were still investigating a motive. Law enforcement officials believe that Crusius posted a racist, anti-immigrant essay online just before the shooting, NBC News reported.
A Walmart shopper,Adriana Quezada, told the AP, “I heard the shots but I thought they were hits, like roof construction.”
Quezada, 39, who was in the women’s clothing section of Walmart with her two children. Quezada’s 19-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son threw themselves to the ground, then ran out of the Walmart through an emergency exit. She said they were not hurt.
Walmart tweeted Saturday afternoon, “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.”
The area where police converged Saturday afternoon is east of downtown El Paso, near the city’s international airport about two miles from the Mexican border.
“There has to be a point where enough is enough. Enough is enough,” said Rep. Veronica Escobar, the Democrat who represents El Paso in Congress, in an interview on MSNBC. “We have been plagued by gun violence in this country and needless tragedy week after week after week and it is about time for sensible gun violence prevention legislation.”
“Here in this community we are going to wrap our arms around each other,” said Escobar, who ended a town hall meeting at Coronado High School 15 miles from the mall because of the shooting. “But the folks elected to every office that have the ability to legislate safety, we have to do it. The time has come … the time came a long time ago.”
University Medical Center, a level one trauma center, got 12 victims, some of whom were dead, others of whom had nonlife-threatening injuries, spokesman Ryan Mielke said. Two children were taken to El Paso Children’s Hospital, 2 and 9 years old. They are in stable condition, officials said.
Del Sol Medical Center took in 11 patients ranging in age from 35 to 82, according to the NBC affiliate KTSM television station. Nine are in critical condition, two others were stable.
President Donald Trump tweeted, “Terrible shootings in El Paso, Texas. Reports are very bad, many killed.”
The shooting comes six days after a man opened fire on a garlic festival in Gilroy, California, killing two children and a man and then himself. Twelve people were injured.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called the shooting “a heinous and senseless act of violence” and said the state had deployed a number of law enforcement officers to the city, according to The Associated Press.
An emotional Beto O’Rourke, a presidential candidate and former representative, said he was returning to El Paso, his home town, to be with his family and his community.
“We know there’s a lot of injury, a lot of suffering in El Paso right now,” O’Rourke said. “I’m incredibly saddened, and it is very hard to think about this, but I’ll tell you, El Paso is the strongest place in the world. This community is going to come together.”
Earlier he tweeted: “Truly heartbreaking. Stay safe, El Paso.”