20 Killed and 26 Injured in Mass Shooting Inside Walmart in El Paso, Texas
The suspect was taken into custody without incident, multiple outlets report
Twenty people were killed and 26 were injured in a mass shooting Saturday morning inside a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, Police Chief Greg Allen announced at an evening press conference.
Calls to police about an active shooter at 10:39 a.m. and first responders arrived six minutes later, Allen said. The store was reportedly at capacity during the busy back-to-school shopping season, with as many as 3,000 people inside, according to multiple outlets.
Patrick Crusius, 21, of Allen, Texas, a Dallas suburb more than 600 miles from El Paso, is the suspect, a law enforcement source with direct knowledge of the investigation tells PEOPLE. Police said the suspect drove about 10 hours to the site of the shooting and surrendered to police without incident.
Allen said the shooting “has a nexus at this point in time to a hate crime.” The source close to the investigation said authorities were looking at a manifesto with white nationalist themes the suspect is believed to have written. According to the source, the manifesto expressed support for the Christchurch shooting in New Zealand in which 49 people were killed as they prayed in mosques.
Describing the store after the shooting, Allen said, “The scene is a horrific one unfortunately because of the nature of the situation.”
Gov. Greg Abbott said a “normal day for someone to leisurely go shopping turned into one of the most deadly days in the history of Texas.”
Police announced that blood is needed urgently and that victims have been transported to multiple hospitals.
A reunification center for impacted families has been set up at MacCarthur Middle School.
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Vanessa Saenz, who was shopping in the store, told ABC the shooter was wearing cargo pants and ear protectors. Saenz said she saw victims near the shooter who were cornered and then saw the shooter turn and fire on them.
Walmart issued a statement on Twitter, saying: “We’re in shock over the tragic events at Cielo Vista Mall in El Paso, where store 2201 & Club 6502 are located. We’re praying for the victims, the community & our associates, as well as the first responders.”
At the Saturday press conference, Congresswoman Veronica Escobar addressed “this emerging narrative that we’re seeing throughout our country as to domestic terrorism.”
“El Paso has historically been a very safe community,” Escobar said. “This is someone who came from outside our community to do us harm.”
The New York Times reported earlier this year that the crime rate of El Paso, a city with a population of about 650,000, has consistently had a lower crime rate than cities of a similar size, according to FBI data.
Saturday’s shooting took place four days after a “disgruntled employee” fatally shot two colleagues at a Mississippi Walmart before being wounded by a responding officer and taken into custody.
• With reporting by SUSAN KATZ KEATING