By Associated Press
EL PASO, Texas (AP) — A gunman armed with a rifle opened fire in an El Paso shopping area packed with as many as 3,000 people during the busy back-to-school season, leaving 20 dead and more than two dozen injured, police said.
Hours later, there was another mass shooting across the country. Police in Dayton, Ohio, said nine people were killed by a shooter who was shot to death by responding officers.
Authorities are investigating the possibility the Saturday shooting in El Paso was a hate crime, working to confirm whether a racist, anti-immigrant screed posted online shortly beforehand was written by the man arrested in the attack on the 680,000-resident border city.
Despite initial reports of possible multiple gunmen, the man in custody is believed to be the only shooter, police said. Two law enforcement officials who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity identified him as 21-year-old Patrick Crusius. Authorities didn’t release his name at a news conference but said the gunman was arrested without police firing any shots and is from Allen, which is a nearly 10-hour drive from El Paso.
Many of the victims were shot at a Walmart, according to police, who provided updates about the shooting in English and Spanish in the largely Latino city. The shopping area is about 5 miles from the main border checkpoint with Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.
“The scene was a horrific one,” said El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen, adding that many of the 26 people who were hurt had life-threatening injuries.
The shooting came less than a week after a 19-year-old gunman killed three people and injured 13 others at the popular Gilroy Garlic Festival in California before dying of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Adriana Quezada said she was in the women’s clothing section of the Walmart /zigman2/quotes/207374728/composite WMT -0.07% in El Paso with her two children when she heard gunfire.
“But I thought they were hits, like roof construction,” Quezada, 39, said of the shots.
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, Quezada said.
Relatives said a 25-year-old woman who was shot while apparently trying to shield her 2-month-old son was among those killed, while Mexican officials said three Mexican nationals were among the dead and six more were wounded.
Ryan Mielke, a spokesman for University Medical Center of El Paso, said 13 of the injured were brought to the hospital with injuries, including one who died. Two of the injured were children who were transferred to El Paso Children’s Hospital, he said.
Eleven other victims ages 35 to 82 were being treated at Del Sol Medical Center, hospital spokesman Victor Guerrero said.
Residents quickly volunteered to give blood to the injured. President Donald Trump tweeted: “God be with you all!”