Massacre suspect with Collin County ties charged with capital murder after 20 slain at El Paso Walmart
- Written by Alfredo Corchado LaVendrick Smith Loyd Brumfield Alfredo Corchado LaVendrick Smith Loyd Brumfield
- Category: Texas Texas
El Paso, TX - At least 20 people were shot and killed and 26 more were wounded Saturday morning when a gunman opened fire in an El Paso Walmart packed with back-to-school shoppers.
Patrick Wood Crusius, 21, was charged with capital murder and booked into the El Paso jail. He has ties to Collin County.
When he encountered El Paso police officers, the suspect laid his weapon down and surrendered near the scene, Police Chief Greg Allen said.
The chief said the gunman faces capital murder charges and possible hate-crimes counts, if the FBI determines they are warranted.
"The situation," Allen said, struggling to contain his emotions, "is a horrific one."
The chief also attributed a manifesto posted online to the suspect, who claimed he was acting in response to "the Hispanic invasion of Texas."
"I am simply defending my country from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion," the manifesto states.
In a video on Twitter, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador expressed his condolences to El Paso and mourned the victims. He confirmed that three of those killed were Mexican citizens.
The shooting was reported about 10:30 a.m. and police responded at 10:46 a.m., Allen said.
"There are so many victims, so many bodies inside Walmart," one person inside the store said after the shooting. "Hard to describe."
Crusius has lived in Allen and attended schools in Collin County. A Plano ISD spokeswoman confirmed that a student by that name graduated from Plano Senior High School in 2017.
Allen police, the FBI and the news media quickly descended on a home in Allen listed as Crusius' last known address. A man who answered the front door to reporters quickly closed it.
WFAA-TV reporter Rebecca Lopez said that ATF and FBI agents in North Texas were searching homes and interviewing potential relatives of the suspect.
Congresswoman Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, said she couldn't comment directly about the motives of the gunman but said "the manifesto narrative is fueled by hate."
"And it's fueled by racism and bigotry and division," she said. "El Paso has historically been a very safe community. We have been safe for decades. We will continue to be safe. This is someone who came from outside our community to do us harm. A community that has shown nothing but generosity and kindness to the least among us. Those people arriving at America's front door."
Police spokesman Robert Gomez said police "ruled out" that multiple people were involved after initial reports of more than one shooter. Officials were still determining a motive, he said.
Less than 24 hours later, there was a second mass shooting. A gunman wearing body armor and carrying extra magazines opened fire in a popular nightlife area of Dayton, Ohio, killing nine and injuring dozens, authorities say.
Allen said victims there varied widely in age and gender, with children among them.
The victims who died will remain where they fell until the scene is properly processed, Allen said.
El Paso Mayor Dee Margo said his city will heal.
"Our community will not be defined by this evil, senseless act of violence," he said. "United, our community will heal. El Paso is too strong to be broken by a cowardly act such as this one."
Margo also echoed Escobar's thoughts.
"We're a special community," he said, "and this would not have happened from an El Pasoan, I can assure you."
Gloria King was in the Walmart buying school supplies for her 6-year-old son, Leon, with her sister, Sandra, when she heard a woman scream that there was a shooter in the building.
"Suddenly I could hear the shots, and it felt like the shooter, or shooters were right behind us," she said. "You heard, 'pop, pop, pop.' It felt like the person was just behind us."
For more than three hours, Richard Nuñez was locked inside the Sam's Club next door as he listened to police and ambulance sirens and parents trying to calm their children amid cries of "Nos van a matar" or "They're going to kill us."
"Everyone was in panic mode," he said. "I feel shaken up. I'm tearing up 'cause this doesn't happen in El Paso. Not in my city."
Nuñez had just moved back from San Antonio to El Paso, long considered one of the nation's safest cities. He works at a mobile company and had gone to Sam's Club on Saturday morning to buy food.
A University Medical Center of El Paso spokesman said multiple victims were taken to different hospitals.
The university hospital got 13 victims, spokesman Ryan Mielke told NBC News. Two children, ages 2 and 9, were transferred to El Paso Children's Hospital.
"This is a terrible tragedy and we are doing everything possible to treat and care for the victims and assist their families," hospital CEO Jacob Cintron told KTSM-TV.
An official from another hospital, Del Sol Medical Center, told CBS News that 11 victims were taken to the medical facility.
Blood donation centers in the city were overwhelmed with El Pasoans standing in line waiting to donate, responding to a plea from the El Paso Police Department.
The mall complex is near Interstate 10 on El Paso's east side. It's one of the busiest shopping centers in the region, attracting families from both sides of the border.
Agents from the FBI, Customs and Border Protection and state troopers were all at the scene, in addition to scores of El Paso police officers.
Several blocks surrounding El Paso's popular mall, along with the Walmart and Sam's Club, were blocked off and guarded by troopers as investigators set about the grim task of combing the crime scene.
In a statement, Walmart's corporate office said the company is working with law enforcement in the investigation.
"We are in shock over the tragic events at the Cielo Vista Mall in El Paso," the company said in its statement. "We're praying for the victims, the community and our associates, as well as the first responders who are on the scene."
Nearby, MacArthur Elementary-Intermediate School was set up as a reunion point for people looking for loved ones.
Two witnesses told a photographer for the Texas Tribune that they ran out of the Walmart after hearing shots. The man and woman, identified only as Lorenzo and Gabriela, said once they heard shots they became anxious to run away.
"We thought it was a fire. Then we heard gunshots and that's when we began to walk out more rapidly," Gabriela said. "We heard the shots close, so we decided to almost run."
Ignacio Hernandez, a retired Customs and Border Protection agent, was at a Starbucks near the Walmart reflecting about the situation facing this border town that's already mired in a crisis over immigration and now must face another grim reality.
"We don't need a border wall. We need security at the malls," he said. "Get rid of the hate."
Source: Dallas Morning News