Friday 23 August 2019

'Multiple fatalities' reported after shooting in El Paso mall

Investigators reviewing online post from several days ago that may reveal the shooter's motive

CCTV PICTURES: A surveillance still released by El Paso’s KTSM 9 News shows the alleged shooter
CCTV PICTURES: A surveillance still released by El Paso’s KTSM 9 News shows the alleged shooter

Hannah Knowles

At least 19 people died and another 40 were wounded in a mass shooting at a shopping complex in the border town of El Paso, Texas yesterday, multiple law enforcement sources reported.

The shooting happened at a Walmart near the Cielo Vista Mall. The Walmart was at capacity with up to 3,000 shoppers during the busy back-to-school season.

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A 21-year-old suspect identified as Patrick Crusius, a resident of the Dallas area - more than 600 miles from El Paso - has been taken into custody.

Police used "little to minimum force" when officers took the suspect into custody. "No law enforcement personnel fired their weapon," said a spokesman.

Police said there was only one shooter. Law enforcement previously had reports of multiple shooters.

City police said the shooting began around 10am local time and quickly warned people via Twitter to avoid the area.

The shooting apparently began outside the Walmart. Vanessa Saenz, a 37-year-old from El Paso, was driving into the Walmart car park with her mother and son to buy the family's weekly groceries when she heard a few pops that sounded like fireworks.

She looked over and saw a man who seemed to be "dancing" in the air - and then she noticed a woman sprinting.

Saenz realized the man had been shot and that these were no fireworks.

"My mom yelled, 'Just go! Speed and just go!' but of course there were people trying to dodge the bullets and running through the parking lot," Saenz said.

She also caught a glimpse of the shooter, who she said was wearing dark cargo pants, a black T-shirt, and some sort of earmuffs. He was around 5' 10" tall, thin and carrying a rifle, she said.

He was just "shooting randomly," Saenz said, and then he walked into the mall and she lost sight of him.

Inside the Walmart, shoppers and employees raced to exit the store or even hide in shelves. A Walmart employee described hearing gunshots and trying to get as many people as she could out of the store, and seeing customers and employees tumbling over each other in their rush to escape. One of her co-workers was shot in the hand.

A man who had been at a store in the mall nearby told reporters that he had heard gunshots and taken out his own gun as he ran towards the parking lot. He said police had briefly questioned him, thinking he was the shooter.

Witnesses said local people used their own cars to transport victims to hospitals.

Walmart expressed shock at the shooting and said it was praying for the victims. The retailer said it is working closely with law enforcement and would provide updates as appropriate.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott condemned the shooting as "a heinous and senseless act of violence." The state has deployed troopers, special agents, Texas rangers, tactical teams and aircraft in a support role, Abbott said.

Presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke - who is from El Paso - cancelled all campaign events in Nevada and California and will immediately return to his hometown.

The shooting in El Paso comes less than a week after a shooting at a garlic festival in Gilroy, California, left three people dead and 15 injured.

Law enforcement authorities said a 19-year-old who had previously lived in town cut his way through a fence to get inside the festival, then opened fire with a military-style rifle.

©Washington Post

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