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Tuesday 20 August 2019

US mass shootings: Man charged with murder after at least 20 killed and dozens injured at Texas Walmart massacre

  • At least 30 killed and dozens injured in separate US mass shootings in less than 24 hours
  • 20 people killed and dozens injured in shooting at El Paso shopping centre in Texas
  • Patrick Crusis charged with murder
  • Shooting being charge as domestic terrorism case
  • Nine killed in separate shooting in Ohio, gunman shot dead by police
Patrick Crusius (inset) has been charged with murder
Patrick Crusius (inset) has been charged with murder
CCTV PICTURES: A surveillance still released by El Paso’s KTSM 9 News shows the alleged shooter
Paramedics offer medical attention after a shooting at a Walmart store in Southaven, Miss. Photo: Brandon Dill/AP Photo
An El Paso police officer talks to a store employee following the shooting (AP Photo/Rudy Gutierrez)
Law enforcement officers make their way to the scene of a shooting at a shopping centre in El Paso, Texas (Rudy Gutierrez/AP)
A vigil for victims is held in El Paso, Texas (AP Photo/John Locher)
People gather in Juarez, Mexico, in a vigil for the 3 Mexican nationals who were killed in an El Paso shopping-complex shooting (AP Photo/Christian Chavez)

Cedar Attanasio, Michael Balsamo and Diana Heidgerd

THE shooting that killed 20 people at a crowded El Paso shopping area will be handled as a domestic terrorism case, federal authorities have said.

They weighed hate-crime charges against the gunman, who has been identified by the FBI as 21-year-old Patrick Crusius, on Sunday.

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

If found guilty, he could be sentenced to the death penalty.

A local prosecutor announced he would bring capital murder charges against Crusius, saying the suspect "lost the right to be among us".

The attack on Saturday morning was followed less than a day later by another shooting that claimed nine lives in a nightlife district of Dayton, Ohio.

That gunman was killed by police.

Patrick Crusius (FBI/AP)
Patrick Crusius (FBI/AP)

Investigators were focusing on whether the El Paso attack was a hate crime after the emergence of a racist, anti-immigrant screed that was posted online shortly beforehand.

Detectives sought to determine if it was written by the man who was arrested.

The border city has figured prominently in the immigration debate and is home to 680,000 people, most of them Latino.

Using a rifle, the El Paso gunman opened fire in an area packed with as many as 3,000 people during the busy back-to-school shopping season.

Melody Stout and Hannah Payan comfort each other during a vigil for victims of the shooting that occurred earlier in the day at a shopping center, Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019, in El Paso, Texas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Melody Stout and Hannah Payan comfort each other during a vigil for victims of the shooting that occurred earlier in the day at a shopping center, Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019, in El Paso, Texas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

More than two dozen people were wounded, some with life-threatening injuries, police said.

Federal officials were treating the attack as a domestic terrorism case, according to the US attorney.

Despite initial reports of possible multiple gunmen, the man in custody was believed to be the only shooter, police said.

Crusius is from Allen, which is a nearly 10-hour drive from El Paso.

There was no immediate indication he had an attorney.

El Paso police chief Greg Allen said he did not know where the weapon was purchased.

People evacuate from a JCPenney store after 18 people were shot in El Paso, Texas, U.S. August 3, 2019, in this still image obtained from a social media video. Courtesy of Victoria Balderrama/Social Media via Reuters
People evacuate from a JCPenney store after 18 people were shot in El Paso, Texas, U.S. August 3, 2019, in this still image obtained from a social media video. Courtesy of Victoria Balderrama/Social Media via Reuters

"Of course, normal individuals seeing that type of weapon might be alarmed but technically he was within the realm of the law," Mr Allen said.

Police say more than two dozen people were wounded in the attack at a shopping area about five miles from the main border checkpoint with Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

Many of the victims were shot at a Walmart.

"The scene was a horrific one," Mr Allen said, adding many of the 26 people who were hurt had life-threatening injuries.

Adriana Quezada said she was in the women's clothing section of the Walmart with her two children when she heard gunfire.

"But I thought they were hits, like roof construction," Ms Quezada, 39, said of the shots.

Law enforcement agencies respond to an active shooter at a Wal-Mart near Cielo Vista Mall in El Paso
Photo by Joel Angel JUAREZ / AFP)JOEL ANGEL JUAREZ/AFP/Getty Images
Law enforcement agencies respond to an active shooter at a Wal-Mart near Cielo Vista Mall in El Paso Photo by Joel Angel JUAREZ / AFP)JOEL ANGEL JUAREZ/AFP/Getty Images

Her 19-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son threw themselves to the ground, then ran out of the store through an emergency exit. They were not hurt.

Relatives said a 25-year-old woman who was shot while trying to shield her two-month-old son was among those killed.

Officials said three Mexican nationals were among the dead and six more were wounded.

Ryan Mielke, a spokesman for University Medical Centre of El Paso, said 13 of the wounded were brought to the hospital, including one who died.

Two of the injured were children who were transferred to El Paso Children's Hospital, he said.

A total of 11 other victims ages 35 to 82 were being treated at Del Sol Medical Centre, hospital spokesman Victor Guerrero said.

Ambulances near the scene of a shooting at a shopping centre in El Paso, Texas (AP Photo/Rudy Gutierrez)
Ambulances near the scene of a shooting at a shopping centre in El Paso, Texas (AP Photo/Rudy Gutierrez)

Residents quickly volunteered to give blood to the injured. President Donald Trump tweeted: "God be with you all!"

In a document that was posted online shortly before the shooting, the writer expressed concern that an influx of Hispanics into the US will replace ageing white voters, potentially turning Texas blue in upcoming elections and swinging the White House to the Democrats.

The writer was also critical of Republicans for what he described as close ties to corporations and degradation of the environment.

Though a Twitter account that appears to belong to Crusius included pro-Trump posts praising the plan to build more border wall, the writer of the online document said his views on race predated Mr Trump's campaign and that any attempt to blame the president for his actions was "fake news."

The writer denied he was a white supremacist but the document says "race mixing" is destroying the nation and recommends dividing the US into territorial enclaves determined by race.

The first sentence of the four-page document expresses support for the man accused of killing 51 people at two New Zealand mosques in March after posting his own screed with a conspiracy theory about nonwhite migrants replacing whites.

A gunman went on a rampage at a shopping centre (AP Photo/Rudy Gutierrez)
A gunman went on a rampage at a shopping centre (AP Photo/Rudy Gutierrez)

In the hours after the shooting, authorities blocked streets near a home in Allen associated with the suspect.

Officers appeared to speak briefly with a woman who answered the door of the grey stone house and later entered the residence.

Read more here: Ohio shooting: 10 dead as gunman in body armour opens fire in downtown Dayton district

Separately, hours later A gunman wearing body armour and carrying extra magazines opened fire in Dayton, Ohio, killing nine and injuring dozens, authorities have said.

It was the second mass shooting in the US in less than 24 hours.

Dayton police patrolling the area responded in less than a minute to the shooting, which unfolded at about 1am on Sunday on the streets of the Oregon District, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said at a press conference.

Ms Whaley said if the police had not responded so quickly, "hundreds of people in the Oregon District could be dead today".

The Oregon District is a historic neighbourhood that Lieutenant Colonel Matt Carper described as "a safe part of downtown," home to bars, restaurants and theatres.

The gunman, who has not been identified by authorities, was shot to death by responding officers.

Ms Whaley said he was carrying a .223-calibre rifle and had additional high-capacity magazines with him.

Police believe there was only one shooter and have not yet identified the suspect or a motive.

Ms Whaley said at least 27 people were treated for injuries and at least 15 of those have been released.

Several more remain in serious or critical condition, local hospital officials said at a news conference.

They said some people suffered multiple gunshot wounds and others suffered injuries as they fled.

Miami Valley Hospital spokeswoman Terrea Little said the hospital had received 16 victims but she could not confirm their conditions.

Kettering Health Network spokeswoman Elizabeth Long said multiple victims from a shooting had been brought to system hospitals, but she didn't have details on how many.

Nikita Papillon, 23, was across the street at Newcom's Tavern when the shooting started.

She said she saw a girl she had talked to earlier lying outside Ned Peppers Bar.

"She had told me she liked my outfit and thought I was cute and I told her I liked her outfit and I thought she was cute," Ms Papillon said.

She had been to Ned Peppers the night before, describing it as the kind of place "where you don't have to worry about someone shooting up the place.

"People my age, we don't think something like this is going to happen," she said.

"And when it happens, words can't describe it."

Tianycia Leonard, 28, was in the back of Newcom's.

She heard "loud thumps" she initially thought was people pounding on a skip.

"It was so noisy but then you could tell it was gunshots and there was a lot of rounds," Ms Leonard said.

Ned Peppers staff said in a Facebook post they were left shaken and confused by the shooting.

The bar said a bouncer was treated for shrapnel wounds.

A message seeking further comment was left with staff.

Mr Trump has been briefed on the shooting and praised law enforcement's speedy response in a tweet on Sunday morning.

Governor Mike DeWine issued his own statement before 7am, announcing he has ordered flags in Ohio remain at half-mast,.

He also offered assistance to Ms Whaley.

The FBI is assisting with the investigation.

A family assistance centre was set up at the Dayton Convention Centre, where people seeking information on victims arrived in a steady trickle throughout the morning.

Some local pastors were on hand to offer support, as were comfort dogs.

Ms Whaley said the Oregon District is expected to reopen on Sunday afternoon and a vigil is planned on Sunday evening.

The minor league baseball team Dayton Dragons, who play in nearby Fifth Third Field, postponed their Sunday afternoon game against the Lake County Captains "due to this morning's tragic event".

Before Saturday, 96 people had died in mass killings in 2019 - 26 of them in public mass shootings.

Pope Francis on Sunday condemned attacks on "defenceless people" in a spate of gun violence in three American states.

Speaking to thousands of pilgrims and tourists in St. Peter's Square for his Sunday message and blessing, Francis said he was spiritually close to the victims, the wounded and the families affected by attacks he said had "bloodied Texas, California and Ohio".

Francis said all three attacks targeted "defenceless people".

He mentioned the Texas shooting as well as another last week at a food festival in California where three people were killed, and a third in Dayton, Ohio, where 10 people were killed early on Sunday. .

Francis, who has in the past criticised the gun manufacturing industry, then led the crowd in reciting a Hail Mary for the victims.

PA Media

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