Gov. Abbott: 20 dead in mass shooting at El Paso Walmart

Texas Tribune News

A couple console each other near an El Paso Walmart where a mass shooting occurred Saturday.
A couple console each other near an El Paso Walmart where a mass shooting occurred Saturday.
Ivan Pierre Aguirre for The Texas Tribune

EL PASO — A mass shooting at a Walmart in this border city killed 20 people and left more than two dozen others injured Saturday, Gov. Greg Abbott said at a press conference. Police said they have arrested a man in his 20s who they said surrendered without incident.

“We must do one thing today, one thing tomorrow and each and every day after this,” Abbott said. “We must unite. … Now is the time for Texans to come together to support each other, to help these families in need and make sure that El Paso takes the step forward that it needs to take.”

El Paso police Chief Greg Allen said that “the scene is a horrific one” and added that the FBI will be investigating whether it was a hate crime.

A spokesman for El Paso University Medical Center told CNN that 13 shooting victims were transported to the hospital and one later died. The hospital’s CEO later told the network that the victims ranged in age from 35 to 82 years old and nine were in critical condition.

Sgt. Robert Gomez with the El Paso Police Department said police arrested a white male in his 20s without incident. Gomez did not identify the man, but CNN and other news outlets, citing multiple sources, have identified him as 21-year-old Patrick Crusius of Allen, north of Dallas — more than 650 miles from El Paso.

Gomez said police don’t believe there were other shooters beyond the person they have in custody — but he said police are still investigating and the situation is fluid.

“This is unprecedented in El Paso,” Gomez said.

Gomez said 911 calls about the shooting began coming in at 10 a.m. local time. Law enforcement soon sealed off the area around the Walmart. FBI SWAT teams could be seen near armored vehicles, along with Texas Department of Public Safety troopers, as a military-style helicopter circled overhead.

Law enforcement officers and an armored vehicle were on the scene near a Walmart in El Paso after a mass shooting Saturday.
Law enforcement officers and an armored vehicle were on the scene near a Walmart in El Paso after a mass shooting Saturday.
Ivan Pierre Aguirre for The Texas Tribune

Victoria Hankins, a 38-year-old El Paso native, said she was in the grocery area near the rear of the store when she heard seven or eight shots in rapid succession. She said everyone hit the floor and started crawling away from the shots. Hankins said someone told them to hide in the back of the store, and a number of people crowded into a metal shipping container, which was stifling in the heat. She said people in the store helped each other find places to hide.

When they emerged after the shooting was over, Hankins said she saw a woman exit the store with blood on her legs, saying she was looking for her children.

“I’m not surprised by everyone taking care of each other inside,” Hankins said, adding that she also wasn’t surprised that someone would start shooting inside the Walmart. “It can happen anywhere nowadays. It’s crazy.”

Another survivor, who would only give his first name, Raul, said he was inside the Walmart and heard several rapid-fire shots. He said he was instructed to get out of the store, then became stranded because his truck was inside the crime scene perimeter.

Police have set up a reunification center at MacArthur Elementary-Intermediate School to help families locate their loved ones, said Sgt. Enrique Carrillo, a police spokesman.

Police were seen searching a late-model car at an intersection near the scene, with the trunk and doors open. No one was inside.

Before the press conference Saturday, Abbott released a statement calling the shooting “a heinous and senseless act of violence.

“Our hearts go out to the victims of this horrific shooting and to the entire community in this time of loss. While no words can provide the solace needed for those impacted by this event, I ask that all Texans join Cecilia and me in offering our prayers for the victims and their families,” Abbott said, adding that state agencies and DPS are assisting El Paso police with the investigation.

“The state of Texas will do everything it can to ensure justice is delivered to the perpetrators of this heinous act,” Abbott said.

Law enforcement officers descended on a Walmart in El Paso during the shooting.
Law enforcement officers descended on a Walmart in El Paso during the shooting.
Julián Aguilar/The Texas Tribune

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said his office would help all law enforcement agencies involved in the shooting investigation. “Our deepest sympathies and prayers extend to all the people of El Paso, especially those who have been directly impacted by this tragedy,” Paxton said in a written statement.

It’s the third mass shooting in Texas in less than two years. In November 2017, a mass shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, a small community about 30 miles southeast of San Antonio, left 26 people dead and 20 wounded. The 26-year-old gunman died after fleeing the scene when citizens exchanged gunfire with him. And in May 2018, a shooter killed 10 people and wounded 13 others at Santa Fe High School outside of Houston.

“We are all trying to piece together what has happened in our community,” U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, told CNN. “It is unfathomable.

“And it is unfortunately an all too common pain across America,” Escobar added. “We have the solutions. They are right in front of us. What we need is the will to act as a country.”

Condolences poured in from around Texas and the nation as news of the shooting dominated the news Saturday.

President Donald Trump tweeted, “Terrible shootings in ElPaso, Texas. Reports are very bad, many killed. Working with State and Local authorities, and Law Enforcement. Spoke to Governor to pledge total support of Federal Government. God be with you all!”

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas issued a written statement: “My heart is with everyone in El Paso struck by this unspeakable evil. Heidi and I are praying for the victims and their families and grateful for the first responders, local authorities, and law enforcement officers working tirelessly to bring the perpetrator of this depraved act to justice and keep the entire community safe. There are millions of people in Texas and across the country standing behind you.”

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said ,”Texans are heartbroken over the news of the horrific shooting in El Paso. Please join Jan and I in praying for the city of El Paso, the victims, their families and their friends who have suffered an unspeakable loss today.”

This is a breaking story and will be updated as more details are available.

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