20 Dead, 26 Injured In El Paso Mass Shooting. Hate Crime Suspected.
Another day, another mass shooting and, as is becoming all too common in this country, this one appears to have been racially motivated.
At least 20 people are dead and another 26 injured in a mass shooting being investigated as a hate crime at a WalMart in El Paso, Texas:
EL PASO — A 21-year-old gunman armed with a powerful rifle turned a crowded Walmart store in this majority-Hispanic border city into a scene of chaos and bloodshed on Saturday, stalking shoppers in the aisles in an attack that left at least 20 people dead and 26 others wounded, the authorities said.
For several minutes late on Saturday morning, the packed Walmart near the Cielo Vista Mall on the city’s East Side filled with gun smoke and the echo of gunfire. Workers and customers, some bloodied, fled out the doors. Others huddled in the aisles or on the ground.
“Texas grieves for the people of El Paso today,” the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, told reporters. “On a day that would have been a normal day for someone to leisurely go shopping, turned into one of the most deadly days in the history of Texas.”
Manuel Uruchurtu, 20, had just paid at the cash register and was walking out of the store when he heard the sound of shots. He turned around and saw the gunman holding a long gun and wearing what looked like shoulder pads. As Mr. Uruchurtu fled the store, he saw two bodies on the ground outside, one surrounded by a pool of blood.
“I saw people crying: children, old people, all in shock,” he said. “I saw a baby, maybe 6 to 8 months old, with blood all over their belly.”
The authorities identified the gunman as Patrick Crusius, from a Dallas suburb. He was taken into custody after he surrendered to the police outside the Walmart. The authorities said they were investigating a manifesto Mr. Crusius, who is white, may have posted before the shooting, which described an attack in response to “the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
“Right now, we have a manifesto from this individual,” El Paso’s police chief, Greg Allen, told reporters, though he said later that law enforcement officers were still not clear whether the gunman had posted the document
The manifesto the chief appeared to be referring to was an anti-immigrant online screed titled “The Inconvenient Truth.” The post declares support for the gunman who killed 51 people in Christchurch, New Zealand; outlines fears about Hispanic people gaining power in the United States; and appears to discuss specific details about elements of the attack, including weapons. The four-page manifesto was posted on 8chan, an online forum where the Christchurch gunman also announced his attack. It appeared to have been published at 10:20 a.m., 19 minutes before the first 911 call, according to an archived version of the website.
“Hispanics will take control of the local and state government of my beloved Texas, changing policy to better suit their needs,” the manifesto said. It added that politicians of both parties are to blame for the United States “rotting from the inside out,” and that “the heavy Hispanic population in Texas will make us a Democrat stronghold.”
The shooting came six days after a gunman killed three people at a garlic festival in Gilroy, Calif. In that shooting, the gunman shot and killed himself after exchanging gunfire with the police. The massacre in El Paso was the deadliest American mass shooting since November 2017, when 26 people were killed in a church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Tex.
President Trump was briefed on the shooting, and administration officials said they were monitoring the situation. “Terrible shootings in El Paso, Texas,” Mr. Trump said on Twitter. “Reports are very bad, many killed.”
The president pledged “total support of Federal Government” to state and local authorities, and spoke about the shooting with Mr. Abbott, the governor, who headed to the scene of the attack on Saturday afternoon.
El Paso has long been both a cultural and political symbol of Hispanic Texas.
The city has had a binational feel because of its proximity and ties to its sister city in Mexico, Ciudad Juárez, and has been in the national spotlight for months. Thousands of Central American families have flooded the city and surrounding areas seeking asylum, overwhelming the Border Patrol and nonprofit groups working with immigrants.
The waves of migrants, and the difficulty the Trump administration has had providing shelter and medical care to them, have been a focus of Democratic lawmakers and Democratic presidential candidates in an election campaign in which immigration has become a central issue. But the city has also been home to generations of Mexican-Americans who consider themselves more Texan than Mexican. On a clear day, Mexico is visible from the shopping center parking lot.
Some of the wounded on Saturday were identified by the authorities as Mexican citizens, including a 10-year-old girl.
“It tells us something about the hate and the animosity that exists out there in the nation,” said one longtime El Paso lawmaker, State Senator José Rodríguez. “And it seems to always be some of these young people that they’re getting, I guess, irrationally distorted about what’s happening in the country.”
The possibility that an anti-Hispanic motive might be behind the attack angered and startled residents and officials in the city of 682,000.
“This is about hate,” El Paso’s Democratic congresswoman, Representative Veronica Escobar, said in an interview.
Officials said it was too early to discuss possible motives, but Chief Allen said the attack “has the nexus at this point and time to a hate crime. The F.B.I. will be looking into that with other federal authorities.”
The F.B.I. is reviewing evidence to determine whether to move forward with federal charges, said Emmerson Buie Jr., the special agent in charge of the F.B.I. in El Paso. But he said that the bureau had not determined whether the shooting was a hate crime, an act of domestic terrorism or some other federal crime.
The Texas authorities said they were conducting a murder investigation, with the potential for other lines of inquiry.
Mr. Crusius lived with relatives in the Dallas suburb of Allen. In an upper-middle-class neighborhood of two-story homes with neatly manicured lawns, an F.B.I. agent was stationed outside the house and prevented reporters from knocking on the door. “We’re not sure if it’s secure yet,” the agent explained. State and federal officers later blocked the streets leading to the house.
Mr. Crusius appeared to live with his grandparents. A neighbor said he saw the couple’s grandson a few times, but the young man showed no abnormal behavior or appearance.
The timestamp on security-camera footage of the gunman walking in was 10:39:35. Chief Allen said the first officer on scene arrived six minutes later, at 10:45 a.m.
Sergio Armando Samaniego, 40, a clerk in the store’s garden center, said he believed the gunman entered through the automotive section. Mr. Samaniego had been on break and was headed back to the garden center when he heard gunshots.
“I’m lucky,” Mr. Samaniego said. “One of my friends was shot. I saw another customer running out of the store with a shot in his back. I’m just shocked.”
Victor Gamboa, 18, who works at the McDonald’s inside the Walmart, said he had heard shots and saw smoke. “I saw a man on the floor full of blood,” he said. “He appeared to be dead. It happened very quickly.”
Mr. Gamboa said he and other McDonald’s workers sheltered the customers to keep them safe and huddled on the ground for 15 minutes. Officers eventually arrived and escorted the group out to a Sam’s Club store across the street.
More from The El Paso Times:
The peace that El Paso is known for was bloodied Saturday when a gunman from out of town killed 20 people at a Walmart near Cielo Vista Mall, officials said.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott revealed the death toll from the morning attack in East-Central El Paso during an afternoon news conference after he arrived in the city.
Police Chief Greg Allen said 26 people were injured. He said preliminary findings indicate the attack might be a hate crime.
Allen said the active shooter 911 call was received at 10:39 a.m., and the first police officer arrived at 10:45 a.m.
He said the bodies of those killed will remain at the scene until the investigation is completed.
Officials said the suspect was arrested at Sunmount Drive and Viscount Boulevard, near an entrance to the large shopping complex that includes Cielo Vista Mall, Walmart and Sam’s Club.
He surrendered to police and only had one weapon, police said. They did not identify the type of rifle used.
Allen did not comment on a manifesto on Facebook that appears to have been written by the suspect.
“This person did not come from El Paso,” El Paso Mayor Dee Margo said at the news conference. “It is not what we’re about. We are a special community and this would not have happened from an El Pasoan, I can assure you.”
El Paso has averaged 18 homicides a year in the past five years, statistics show. The death toll from Saturday’s shooting surpassed that in one day.
A video of the scene from Facebook captured the devastation.
At the start of the video, a woman runs toward the store, past a truck that a shopping cart has run into, with a body lying on the ground beside it.
Children were holding a fundraiser at the store and some reportedly were among the casualties.
At the front of the store, victims’ bodies are shown near a table that appeared to have items for sale. The body of a man in bluejeans and a blue shirt is seen on the ground near the table, lying on his stomach, seemingly dead, as a woman rushes over to help. Near him is a woman, taking cover between a garbage can and the wall.
A person is shown lying motionless to the left of the table, under a shade covering set up over it, as a woman tries to help. Nearby, by the wall of the building, a man lies on his side in a pool of dark blood, with a bandage on his back.
A voice tells him, “Try not to move,” adding, “Stay with me, OK?”
Wailing is heard in the background, as people tend to others lying injured nearby.
At a news conference Saturday afternoon, police said a white man was in custody. Officials said more than 1,000 shoppers were in the Walmart, as well as 100 workers.
The suspect was identified as Patrick Crusius, 21, of Allen, Texas, according to two law enforcement officials.
Investigators are reviewing recent social media posts in connection with a possible motive in the assault, said the officials, who are not authorized to comment publicly.
A Facebook account apparently belonging to the suspect appeared to have been deleted Saturday afternoon.
The account belonging to Crusius had shown a young man in wire-frame glasses. The account showed three friends, including a possible twin sister. LexisNexis records listed Facebook friend Emily Crusius as a “household member” who shared the suspect’s birthday month and year.
A Twitter account in the suspect’s name, “Patrick Crusius,” using the handle @outsider609, included several tweets supporting President Donald Trump, although the account had been inactive for the past two years.
By Saturday night, it had been suspended.
A January 2017 tweet said, “#BuildTheWall is the best way that @POTUS has worked to secure our country so far!”
It could not immediately be confirmed that the Twitter handle belonged to the suspect.
To put yesterday’s events in perspective, it’s worth noting that the suspect had apparently driven from the Dallas suburb of Allen, Texas to El Paso. That’s a drive of more than 600 miles that would take roughly ten hours if one drove without stopping. It’s not clear at the time, though, if Cruisius had made the journey in one day, which would have meant leaving home around midnight Friday at the latest, or if he had been in the area for several days. It’s also not clear why he chose either El Paso or this particular location as his target, although the fact that El Paso lies along the Mexican border across the Rio Grande for the Mexican city of Ciudad Juarez and is considered the hub of the Latino population in the Lone Star State does seem significant, especially in light of the manifesto apparently linked to the shooter:
Nineteen minutes before the first 911 call alerted the authorities to a mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Tex., a hate-filled, anti-immigrant manifesto appeared online.
It spoke of a “Hispanic invasion of Texas.” It detailed a plan to separate America into territories by race. It warned that white people were being replaced by foreigners.
The authorities were scrutinizing the 2,300-word screed on Saturday and attempting to determine whether it was written by the same man who killed 20 people and injured more than two dozen others near the Mexican border.
Police officers were interviewing the suspect, Patrick Crusius, a 21-year-old white man from Allen, Tex., a roughly 10-hour drive to the Walmart. What brought him to a crowded shopping center in El Paso is one of the many questions on the minds of investigators.
The manifesto that may be linked to Mr. Crusius described an imminent attack and railed against immigrants, saying, “if we can get rid of enough people, then our way of life can be more sustainable.”
From New Zealand to Pittsburgh to a synagogue in Poway, Calif., aggrieved white men over the last several months have turned to mass murder in service of hatred against immigrants, Jews and others they perceive as threats to the white race.
The unsigned manifesto, titled “The Inconvenient Truth,” draws direct inspiration from the mass murder of Muslims at two mosques in New Zealand in March that left 51 people dead. In that attack, the alleged killer published a manifesto online promoting a white supremacist theory called “the great replacement.” The theory has been promoted by a French writer named Renaud Camus, and argues that elites in Europe have been working to replace white Europeans with immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa.
Christchurch has become a rallying cry for extremists the world over. The manifesto potentially linked to the El Paso killings begins, “In general, I support the Christchurch shooter and his manifesto. This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
The gunman who opened fire in April at a synagogue in Poway, Calif., near San Diego, posted an anti-Semitic diatribe on 8chan, the same online message board where the El Paso document surfaced. The Poway manifesto echoed the words of the Christchurch suspect, and also drew inspiration from a massacre at a synagogue in Pittsburgh last October. In that mass shooting, the suspect railed against immigrants, Jews and other groups.
The El Paso shooting, if the manifesto is linked to the gunman, potentially underscored the global spread of white supremacist ideology in the age of social media and at a time when immigration in America and elsewhere has become a divisive political topic.
Shortly after the mass shooting Saturday, Mr. Crusius’ LinkedIn and Facebook accounts were shut down. A LinkedIn page that circulated online after the account was closed down appeared to be several years old, and Mr. Crusius seemed to be a lost young man.
He wrote on LinkedIn while in high school, “I’m not really motivated to do anything more than what’s necessary to get by. Working in general sucks, but I guess a career in Software Development suits me well. I spend about 8 hours every day on the computer so that counts toward technology experience I guess.”
The posting concluded: “Pretty much just gonna see what technology careers present themselves to me; go with the wind.”
If the manifesto is conclusively linked to Mr. Crusius, the federal authorities may treat Saturday’s attack as a hate crime or an incident of domestic terrorism.
The F.B.I. has said that more Americans have died in domestic terrorist attacks than international ones since Sept. 11, and that domestic terrorism is increasingly motivated by white supremacist ideology.
Christopher Wray, the director of the F.B.I., told Congress last month that the bureau had made about 100 domestic terrorism arrests in the first three quarters of the year, roughly the same number of international arrests over that time period.
The words of the manifesto, in citing the “great replacement” theory, echo the slogan that was chanted during a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017: “Jews will not replace us.”
The writer of the manifesto also suggested that Democrats in the United States have a strategy to gain a permanent majority by embracing the growing Hispanic population, a notion that has gained currency on right-wing radio shows for years.
The manifesto said the gunman planned to use an AK-47-style rifle, which has been frequently used in mass shootings. The four-page document said politicians of both parties were to blame for the United States “rotting from the inside out,” and that “the heavy Hispanic population in Texas will make us a Democrat stronghold.”
The manifesto also railed against automation and embraced an argument familiar in anti-immigrant circles: that immigrants are taking jobs from “natives.”
“My opinions on automation, immigration, and the rest predate Trump and his campaign for president,” the document says.
Yesterday’s shooting came just a week after a mass shooting at a festival in Gilroy, California that left four people dead and twelve injured. That shooting also appears to have been at least in part politically motivated but the motives in that shooting are less clear and the fact that the shooter was killed by police means that determining a motive will take time. Additionally, as I write this there is news breaking of a mass shooting overnight in a Dayton, Ohio neighborhood that left at least nine people dead along with the shooter, and sixteen injured. That story is still in its infancy, though, and further details will likely have to wait for updates for law enforcement to determine a motive and other facts about the shooter there to provide a context. The fact that it occurred roughly twelve hours after the El Paso shooting, though, certainly does raise suspicion that it may have been a copycat attack.
Getting back to the El Paso shooting, there really isn’t much that can be said that hasn’t already been said in the aftermath of the dozens of other mass shootings that have occurred in this country and elsewhere around the world. However, there are some recent trends that are developing that are, to say the least, troubling.
Past shootings, such as those at Virginia Tech in 2007. at an event held by Congresswoman Gabby Giffords in her district in 2011, at an Aurora, Colorado movie theater, at an elementary school in Connecticut in 2012, and at a High School in Parkland, Florida in February 2018 were committed by people with rather obvious mental disorders.
More recent shootings, though, appear to be motivated by politics or by racial hatred, This includes the above-referenced mass shooting at a mosque in New Zealand, the 2011 massacre in Norway, the shootings at an African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina in June 2015, and the October 28 massacre at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. To that list we can also add the attempted bombing attacks apparently perpetrated by someone with right-wing political motivations. These types of crimes seem to be becoming far too common and are backed up by the recent assessment by the Federal Bureau of Investigation that domestic terrorism, primarily motivated by white supremacists, has resulted in more deaths in the United States since the September 11th attacks than Islamist jihadi terrorism. The increasing frequency of such attacks is, to say the least, worrisome.
Finally, it would be irresponsible and incomplete to leave the topic of this apparently hate-motivated shooting in El Paso without making reference to the environment in which it is taking place. Over the past two weeks, the President of the United States has unleashed bitter racist attacks against four minority Congresswomen, against a long-serving Maryland Congressman, and against an African-American CNN anchorman who has been critical of the White House. This is the same man who embraced the racist birther conspiracy. who started his campaign with unhinged attacks on Mexican immigrants, based his campaign on building a border wall, proposed banning Muslims from visiting the United States for virtually any reason a Federal District Court Judge who happened to be Mexican-American, and a Gold Star Family who happened to be Muslim It’s also the same man who sought to excuse the racism of the participants in the “Unite The Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that resulted in the murder of a counterprotester at the hands of a march participant. In response to N.F.L. players who were peacefully kneeling to protest racially biased police violence, he responded by calling the largely African-American players “sons of bitches.” It’s the same President who has sought to use race and ethnicity to divide this country and stoke fear among his base for his own political benefit. Is it really that much of a surprise that we’ve seen an increase in hate-motivated crimes during this period?
This isn’t to say that Donald Trump is responsible for what happened in El Paso yesterday or in any of the other events that have happened since 2015. The responsible party in each of those cases is the person who carried out the attack. However, it is true that he has created an environment where these views are becoming more socially acceptable and creating the impression on the far-right that their racism is something to be proud of, and something to act on. Words have consequences, and the Presidents words seem to be having tragic consequences.
Update: The latest information about the shooting in Dayton, Ohio can be found here.