The governor of Texas said 23 people were killed and 26 wounded in a shooting in a crowded shopping area in the Texas border town of El Paso.
On the other hand, the police chief said one of the possibilities being investigated was whether it was a hate crime. Two law enforcement officials who spoke to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity identified the suspect being taken into custody as 21-year-old Patrick Crossius from the Dallas area.
Police said another 26 people were injured, most of them being treated in district hospitals. Most of the victims are believed to have been killed at Walmart near the Cielo Vista Mall, they said, adding that the store was crowded with up to 3,000 people during the busy shopping season from back to school.
“The scene was horrific,” El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen said, adding that many of the injured were seriously injured. He said police had also found a statement that may have been written by Crusius and posted on the internet – one of the reasons for investigating the matter as a hate crime.
Residents volunteered to donate blood to the wounded, while police and military personnel tried to help people searching for their missing loved ones.
“It’s chaos now,” said Austin Johnson, an Army medic in nearby Fort Bliss who volunteered to help at the shopping center and later at the school that was serving as a reunification center.
Adriana Quizada, 39, said she was in the womenswear department of Walmart with her two children when the shooting happened.
“I heard gunshots, but I thought they were hit, like building a roof,” she said.
Her 19-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son threw themselves on the ground, then exited Walmart via the emergency exit. They were unharmed, Quezada said.
She said she saw four men, dressed in black, moving together and shooting randomly. Police later said they believed there was only one shooter.
By noon this afternoon, police said the suspect was under arrest and the public was no longer in danger. Gomez said the suspect who used a rifle was arrested without incident. Police believe he was the “only shooter” but continue to investigate reports that others were involved.
The mass shooting in El Paso came less than a week after a gunman opened fire at a food festival in California. Santino William Legan, 19, killed three people and injured 13 others at the Gilroy folk garlic festival, and succumbed to his gunshot wounds.
Ryan Milky, a spokesman for the University Medical Center in El Paso, said 12 people were taken to the hospital with injuries, including one who died. He said that two of the injured were children, who were being transported to El Paso Hospital for Children. He refused to give further details about the victims.
Hospital spokesman Victor Guerrero said another 11 victims were receiving treatment at Del Sol Medical Center. He said these victims were between the ages of 35 and 82.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott described the shooting as “a pointless and outrageous act of violence” and said the state had deployed a number of law enforcement officers to the city.
O’Rourke, who said he called his wife before ascending to the stage, said the shooting shatters “the illusion that we are witnessing inevitable progress” in addressing armed violence.
The democrat said he heard early reports that the shooter may have been carrying a military weapon, saying that we need to “keep that (expletive) on the battlefield and not bring it into our societies.”
O’Rourke said: “We have to find reason for optimism and hope. Otherwise, we surrender ourselves to a future in which nearly 40,000 people lose their lives annually due to armed violence and I cannot accept that.”
El Paso, with a population of about 680,000, is located in West Texas and lies across the border from Juarez, Mexico.
The city has become a focal point in the immigration debate, leading Trump in February to argue that isolating the southern border would make the United States safer, while residents of the city and Aurorek led thousands in a protest march across the barbed wire barrier topped fence and towering metal strips.