State and city officials said a gunman killed 22 people and wounded 24 others after he opened fire on a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas.
A Justice Department official said the federal government is treating the shooting in El Paso as a “homegrown terrorist” case.
US Attorney General John Bash said at a news conference in El Paso that the federal government is also investigating the attack with a view to bringing federal hate crime charges.
Authorities are working to confirm whether a racist anti-immigration email posted online shortly before the attack was written by the suspected gunman, Patrick Wood Croceus, 21.
El Paso County’s attorney general, Jaime Esparza, told reporters that Texas is also planning to seek the death penalty.
“Texas mourns the residents of El Paso,” El Paso Gov. Greg Abbott said in an evening news conference after the deadliest mass shooting in America since a gunman killed 26 people at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
“The scene was horrific,” said El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen, adding that many of the wounded were seriously injured.
The name of the suspected gunman has not been publicly released, but two law enforcement officials have identified him to the Associated Press as 21-year-old Patrick Croceus from Allen, Texas. It was not clear what the suspect’s connection to El Paso was. Texas Rep. Jeff Leach said in a statement on Twitter that the suspect graduated from Plano High School.
More than a dozen law enforcement officials are seen surrounding a home in Allen, about 26 miles north of Dallas. The group included agents from the FBI, the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. A woman answered the door after a group of officers knocked on it. They seemed to be talking to her for a while, and then she closed the door. After a short time the door opened and the officers entered.
Neighbor Alice Baland, who lives in four homes, said a retired couple were living in the house associated with the suspect. She described them as nice people who regularly attend church.
Allen said his administration received initial reports of the shooting at 10:39 a.m., and paramedics arrived six minutes later. Police have asked people to move away from the area and search for missing family members at a school used as a reunion area. El Paso Police Sergeant. Enrique Carrillo told reporters shortly before one o’clock. One person was under arrest and there was no longer an “imminent threat” to the area.
At a previous press conference, Sergeant in El Paso Police. Robert Gomez said the suspect was arrested without incident and no law enforcement officers fired their weapons. Walmart was close to capacity at the time of the shooting, with as many as 3,000 people inside with 100 employees during the busy shopping season back to school.
“This is unprecedented in El Paso,” Gomez said.
Ryan Milky, a spokesperson for the University Medical Center in El Paso, said 13 patients – one of whom died in hospital – are being treated at the facility’s Level 1 Trauma Center. Milky told the Associated Press that two children, ages 2 and 9, were placed at the medical center before being taken to the nearby El Paso Children’s Hospital.
11 patients received, 9 of them are in critical but stable condition, and two are in stable condition. The hospital said that the patients’ ages ranged between 35 and 82.
El Paso police said a wounded person died in hospital, bringing the death toll to 21.
Residents were volunteering to donate blood for the wounded in response to a police tweet that the donations were “urgently needed”, while police and military personnel were trying to help people searching for their missing loved ones.
“It’s a mess 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.
“Terrible shootings in El Paso, Texas,” President Trump wrote on Twitter. “The reports are very bad, many dead. Working with the state, local authorities, and law enforcement.”
“I spoke with the Governor to pledge the full support of the Federal Government. May God be with you all!” Trump added. Stephen Groves, deputy White House press secretary, said earlier that Trump had been briefed on the shooting and “we continue to monitor the situation.” Groves added that Trump has spoken to Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Attorney General William Barr.
Hours later, Groves said the president “continues to receive updates from his National Security Team about the tragic shootings in El Paso. Federal government officials, including the FBI and ATF, are on the ground in El Paso to help local authorities,” Leading the response to the shooting. The President has pledged the full support of the federal government to Governor Abbott. “
Witness Vanessa Sainz told Fox News that she heard several “popping” noises near the area and saw a man in a black shirt and heavy pants carrying a weapon firing outside the building before entering Walmart.
“He was only pointing at people and only shooting,” she added. Another witness said his mother died at the scene
A witness said he was about to enter Walmart when he heard at least 10 gunshots and saw an elderly woman fall to the ground. He said he was not sure if she was shot.
A family of three was among the dozens of people waiting outside a bus stop. They were trying to get back to their car, which was in a locked Walmart car park.
“I heard the shooting but thought it was injuries, like building the roof,” said Adriana Quizada, 39, who was in the womenswear department at Walmart with her two children.
Videos showed some of the injured being transported to the nearby Sam club.
Abbott said the shooting was a “senseless and outrageous act of violence.”
He said, “Our hearts go out to the victims of this horrific shooting and to the entire community in this lost time.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said his office “stands ready to provide full support to all federal, state and local law enforcement on the scene who will conduct the ongoing investigation.”
Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, who was representing El Paso in the House of Representatives, tweeted that the shooting was truly heartbreaking.
O’Rourke appeared shaken when he appeared at a candidate forum in Las Vegas shortly after the news of the shooting. He said that he called his wife before ascending to the stage and said that the shooting shatters “any illusion that we are witnessing inevitable progress” in dealing with armed violence.
O’Rourke said: “We have to find cause for optimism and hope. Otherwise, we surrender ourselves to a future in which nearly 40,000 people lose their lives due to armed violence and I cannot accept that.”
The O’Rourke campaign later said the candidate had canceled its planned campaign events in Nevada and California. O’Rourke told reporters that he would return to El Paso “to be with my family and to be with my hometown.”
The Democrat said he heard early reports that the shooter may have had a military-grade weapon, saying we need to “keep that on the battlefield and not bring it into our societies.”
Democratic Representative Veronica Escobar tweeted that she was “very sad” about the news of the shooting in El Paso and said she was monitoring the situation.
She added, “Please stay safe.”
“Stay safe, El Paso. Please follow all directions of emergency personnel while we continue to receive further updates, “he tweeted.
South Bend and Ind. Mayor and Pete Buttigieg, the 2020 Presidential Candidate, tweeted: “My grandmother used to take me to the Cielo Vista Mall. Now it’s another mass shooting scene. How many other people have to grieve before we act?
Saturday’s shooting comes just days after a gunman opened fire on Walmart in northern Mississippi, killing two people and wounding a police officer. In response to the recent shooting, Walmart tweeted: “We are in shock over the tragic events at Cielo Vista Mall in El Paso … We pray for the victims, the community, our partners, as well as first responders. We work closely with law enforcement.