A man armed with a rifle opened fire at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, killing 20 people and wounding 26 others as panicked shoppers and employees rushed to take cover before the gunman surrendered to police at the scene.
Many of the busy store shoppers were buying when they found themselves trapped in the latest mass shooting that rocked the United States.
The suspect has been officially identified as a 21-year-old white man from Allen, Texas, a suburb of Dallas 650 miles (1,046 km) east of El Paso, which is located along the Rio Grande, across the US-Mexico border from Ciudad Juarez. .
Citing law enforcement officials, several news reports mentioned the suspect as Patrick Croeseus.
El Paso police chief said authorities are studying a statement from the suspect indicating “a possible link to a hate crime.” Officials declined to go into details and said the investigation was continuing.
But a four-page statement posted on 8chan, an online message board often used by extremists and believed to be its suspected author, described the Walmart attack as “a response to the Spanish invasion of Texas”.
The FBI has opened a domestic terrorism investigation into the Texas shooting incident.
El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, along with the neighboring city of Las Cruces, New Mexico, form an urban frontier region of about 2.5 million people who make up the largest bilingual and bi-national population in North America.
The massacre ranks as the eighth deadliest mass shooting in recent US history, after the 1984 shooting in San Ysidro, California, that killed 21 people.
“We will firmly prosecute the perpetrators as a death sentence, but also as a hate crime, which is exactly what it looks like,” the Texas governor told reporters, adding, “I don’t want to preempt the evidence.” “
It was not immediately clear how the accident happened. But video footage from the scene showed the victims lying on the ground inside and outside the store. One shopper told Reuters the shots appeared to have started outside the building.
Authorities said the suspect turned himself in to the police when officers stormed him, and was taken into custody without incident. A video clip posted on social media showed him being handcuffed by the police and putting him in a squad car.
The mayor of El Paso said the police returned fire within six minutes.
Citing a law enforcement source, El Paso TV station KTSM posted on its website what it said were two pictures of the suspect taken by security cameras as he entered Walmart.
The photos showed a young man wearing glasses, khaki pants, a dark-colored shirt and carrying an assault rifle. It appears he was wearing headphones or an earmuff. Reuters was not able to immediately verify the authenticity of the photos.
About half of the injured, including at least two children, were initially taken to the University Medical Center in El Paso, where several victims remained in surgery hours later, a hospital spokesperson said.
Officers from several law enforcement agencies raced to the scene at Walmart and the nearby Cielo Vista Mall, including local police, state forces, homeland security agents, and border patrols.
Shoppers fled to save their lives, including Keana Long who was at Walmart with her wife when they heard a shooting.
“People were in a panic and jogging,” said long. They were running close to the ground, and people were falling to the ground.
Her husband, Kendall, said that the sound of the gunfire seemed to move inside after the initial shots he heard coming from outside.