Law enforcement officials said a gunman opened fire at Walmart and around a nearby mall in El Paso, Texas, killing 20 people and wounding 26 others.
In handing over the updated death toll, Governor Greg Abbott described it as “one of the bloodiest days in Texas history”.
“Twenty innocent people from El Paso were killed,” he said.
And the authorities appealed for an urgent donation of blood for the wounded.
Officials said one of the suspects was in custody.
Law enforcement sources say the police have identified the suspect as Patrick Croeseus, 21, from the Dallas area. Sgt. Robert Gomes of the El Paso Police Department said that no shots were fired by law enforcement authorities.
Many senior law enforcement officials believe Crusius posted a book online just before the attack. They say investigators are checking a post they suspect is from him, but have not officially confirmed it.
The sources said that it is too early to extract any motives from this publication.
The document, which did not mention the location of the attack, appeared to have been posted on an extremist website at 10:12 a.m., El Paso time, according to law enforcement sources. Police say the first 911 call alerting them to the Walmart shooting was made after 27 minutes – not enough time to act.
El Paso Police Chief Gregory K. Allen told a news conference that the crime appears to have “connection at this time with hate crime.”
However, the FBI Special Agent in charge of the El Paso office, Emerson Bowie, said it was too early to determine whether this was really a hate crime and that an investigation into the motive was ongoing.
“We are reviewing all the evidence,” Bowie said.
Allen said the shooting was reported at 10:39 am, and police were at the scene six minutes later.
Authorities initially said another person was taken into custody, but later said they believed only one person was responsible.
Among the victims were at least three Mexican citizens
Near the Mexican border, the retail area around Cielo Vista Mall is a popular shopping destination for people on both sides of the dividing line, as evidenced by Texas and Mexican license plates in parking lots, although the crackdown on the border has cut some consumer traffic.
In several tweets, the police initially urged people to stay away from the area, but by 1 p.m. He said there was no imminent threat.
A Walmart employee told El Paso that she was running through self-checkout when gunshots rang out. The employee, who wanted to be known only by her first name, Leslie, said she initially thought the boxes were being dropped.
“I thought it was like dropping loud boxes or something like that, until they got closer and closer,” she said. “That’s when I looked at my co-worker, and we looked at each other as if we were shocked and scared.”
“I got all the people I could, I even found a little girl who was missing from her parents, and I got it too. I tried to get as many people as possible,” said a Walmart agent.
Adriana Quizada, 39, was in the store with her two children when the shooting started.
“I heard gunshots, but I thought they were injuries, like building a roof,” she said.
In a tweet, Walmart said she is “in shock”.
“We pray for the victims, the community and our partners, in addition to the first responders,” read a statement posted on Twitter. “We are working closely with law enforcement and will update as appropriate.”
The authorities have asked those who want help to consider going to blood donation centers in the area.
“The blood is in dire need,” El Paso police wrote on Twitter. “Many of the wounded were transferred to different hospitals.”
A spokesman for the University of El Paso Medical Center said the victims had been taken to various hospitals. University Medical Center spokesman Ryan Milky said that the University Medical Center received 13 victims, many of whom were injured “from the first level,” the most serious level.
He said that two children, ages 2 and 9, were taken to El Paso Children’s Hospital and their condition had stabilized.
At another hospital, Del Sol Medical Center, an official said 11 victims between the ages of 35 and 82 had been taken there.
The mayor and other government officials responded.
“Our hearts go out to those who were injured and the families of those who might have been killed,” said de Margo, mayor of El Paso, during an interview with KTSM.