More than a dozen people were killed in an attack Saturday at the Walmart in the Cielo Vista Mall complex in East-Central El Paso.
Law enforcement sources said as many as 19 people died in the attack.
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. The top of the victim’s head is torn off, with brains spilling onto the pavement.
Children were holding a fundraiser at the store and some reportedly were among the dead.
At the front of the store, victims’ bodies are shown near the table. The body of a man in bluejeans and a blue shirt is 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 down motionless next to the table to the left, 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 blood, with a bandage on his back.
A voice is heard, telling him, “Try not to move,” adding, “Stay with me, OK?”
Wailing is heard in the background, as people tend to others lying injured nearby.
Police spokesman Sgt. Robert Gomez said police believe there was only one shooter and he is in custody. He said the shooting took place at Dillard’s and Cielo Vista. He said a rifle was used in the shooting.
At a news conference Saturday afternoon, police said a white male was in custody. Officials said more than 1,000 shoppers were in the Walmart, as well 100 workers.
The Associated Press reported that the suspect who was taken into custody is a 21-year-old Dallas-area man named Patrick Crusius.
Police said the investigation has begun, but could not confirm the number of fatalities or injuries.
Officials said reports of attacks at other malls and locations were false.
Police said no police personnel rounds were fired during the attack.
A police officer said there are two scenes being investigated: at the Walmart and the nearby mall.
Fire and medical officials gather at Walmart near Cielo Vista Mall after an active shooter was reported. Police still inside.
Mark R Lambie, El Paso Times
Police initially said there were reports of multiple shooters in the attack.
Robert Curado, a central El Paso resident, said he and his mother hid between two vending machines outside of the Walmart when the shooter took aim.
“That’s where the individual tried to shoot at me, which he missed cause I kind of ducked down.”
Wal-Mart employee Leslie Diaz talks about the moments the shooting began at the store located near Cielo Vista Mall.
Aaron Martinez, El Paso Times
Curado described the shooter as an Anglo male, about 6 feet tall. “He had an AK-47,” he said.
Though he and his mother survived the ordeal, others may not have been so lucky.
“Saw the lady got hit in front of me,” Curado said. Later in an interview with the El Paso Times, he added, “quite an experience seeing a lady get her face blown off.”
A Facebook account apparently belonging to the suspect appeared to have been deleted Saturday afternoon.
The account belonging to Crusius shows 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 his 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 has been inactive for the past two years.
A January 2017 tweet said, “#BuildTheWall is the best way that @POTUS has worked to secure our country so far!”
The El Paso Times was unable to immediately confirm whether the handle belonged to the suspect.
Medical personnel gathers near Cielo Vista Mall to respond to shooting at El Paso Walmart.
Mark R Lambie, El Paso Times
13 victims taken to University Medical Center
A spokesman for University Medical Center of El Paso said the hospital has received 13 victims from the shooting.
Extra security is at UMC, where worried relatives have begun arriving.
Hospital spokesman Ryan Mielke said some of the victims have died, he added.
“Family members who are here may actually have family members at other hospital, such as Del Sol,” Mielke added.
In a news release, UMC said “Two children have arrived and were transported to El Paso Children’s Hospital. Patients are currently being treated by surgeons and specialists at UMC, joined by physicians and staff from Texas Tech and El Paso Children’s Hospital.”
It added: “We do not have a status all patients to report at this time. Families of victims are arriving at UMC and are being assisted by UMC staff and counselors.
UMC President and CEO Jacob Cintron said: “This is a terrible tragedy and we are doing everything possible to treat and care for the victims and assist their families. Our hearts go out to all the victims of this terrible incident and we will continue to provide the best possible care in hopes of a quick recovery for all.”
El Paso Children’s Hospital President and CEO Cindy Stout said: “We have the very best surgeons and specialists for treating children in our region. The children that have been brought to us have been stabilized and are receiving the best care possible.”
Mielke said the hospital has never dealt with an incident of this magnitude, but they have trained for it several times.
David Shimp, chief executive officer of Del Sol Medical Center, said in an emailed statement: “Earlier today, the El Paso Police Department and emergency personnel responded to an active shooting that occurred in East El Paso. Of those involved, 11 victims ranging from 35 years old to 82 years old, were transported and are being treated at Del Sol Medical Center. Two patients are in stable condition and nine are in critical condition.
“For more information, please call the patient hotline at 915-263-6999. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and the El Paso community during this tragic event.”
Romario Robles, a construction contractor from Edinburg, Texas, said he left the Walmart at around 10:30 a.m. “I didn’t see anything. Everything was normal.”
He said he heard sirens around 11 a.m. as he left a cash store on Viscount Boulevard across from the mall, where he had walked. He said he was not allowed to return to retrieve his car, which was still parked at Walmart.
Rush to escape from shooting
Survivors of the attack who had gathered at intersection of Sunmount Drive and Viscount Boulevard described the chaos.
Leslie Diaz, 25, started her workday at 7:45 a.m. at the Walmart, which is busy each day with customers from El Paso and Chihuahua. She said she was helping customers at the front of the store in the checkout when she heard multiple large “pops” getting closer and louder.
She said she looked at her coworkers, grabbed some customers and led them out of the store as customers began running and screaming toward the exit.
Near her, Tabitha Estrada, 19, was at a GNC vitamin outlet at the front of the Walmart when she heard customers screaming to get away. She took who she could into a locked room. Minutes later she could hear police say, “Come out with your hands up!”
An hour after going hiding, Estrada reunited with her mother, Rebeca Rivas, 40, at the intersection of Viscount Boulevard and Sunmount Drive. They hugged and held each other a while.
“Mija, you’re alive,” Rivas said.
County judge, bishop arrive at UMC
El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego and El Paso Catholic Diocese Bishop Mark J. Seitz arrived at the scene. “We’re just trying to find out what is happening,” Seitz said.
More than a dozen family members, with worried looks on their faces, were in the UMC waiting room. The hospital is bringing in more staff and counselors to deal with the emergency.
A worker at a hospital near the mall who was not working Saturday said he called in to see if help was needed and was told 30 victims had been taken to the hospital.
A police spokesman said the shooting is still active and said no one will be allowed into the area. Police are conducting a large-scale search of the area for the suspects.
Police closed the entrances to Cielo Vista Mall and Border Patrol agents are blocking Hawkins Boulevard near the mall.
Stores in the area have been put into lockdown, including at the Fountains of Farah, which is across the street from Cielo Vista Mall.
KTSM said 18 people have been shot, although the El Paso Times has not been able to confirm that.
El Paso police said people seeking to reunite with their family members should go to MacArthur Elementary-Intermediate School, 8101 Whitus Drive.
A family re-unification center in the aftermath of the Walmart shooting was set up at MacArthur Elementary School.
El Paso Times
Beto O’Rourke’s reaction
In Las Vegas for a presidential forum, former Texas State Rep. Beto O’Rourke addressed the mass shooting in his hometown.
“We know that a lot of injury, a lot of suffering in El Paso right now,” he said. “I am incredibly saddened, and it is very hard to think about this.”
Standing in front of a room of news cameras and reporters, O’Rourke broke into tears.
“But I’ll tell you, El Paso is the strongest place in the world,” O’Rourke said. “This community is going to come together. I’m going back there right now to be with my family and to be with my hometown.”
He thanked the El Paso Police Department and first responders.
“We have to find some reason for optimism and hope or else we can sign ourselves to a future where nearly 40,000 people a year will lose their lives to gun violence, and I cannot accept that,” O’Rourke said.
The country must enforce universal background checks on gun buyers, he said, and prohibit sales of military-grade weapons.
“Some initial reports was that it was a military-style weapon uses — or weapons used — at Cielo Vista Mall,” O’Rourke said. “Keep that shit on the battlefield. Do not bring it into our communities. I don’t want to see it in our malls or our schools or our churches or in our synagogues.”
Escobar ended town hall as news of attack broke
U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, was holding a town hall Saturday morning at Coronado High School when news of the shooting broke. She informed those in attendance about the shooting, saying she needed to end the town hall.
Later she sent an emailed statement: “Today, El Paso is facing the indescribable pain and horror that too many other American communities have had to endure. Our hearts are completely broken by this needless loss of life, especially here in our beautiful home. We mourn for the victims and everyone involved.
“We are grateful for the courage of our first responders, law enforcement, and El Pasoans who are helping one another. In the very difficult hours and days ahead, our community will provide the strength and comfort the survivors and their families need. And to all of us who have the power to end this horror – I am imploring that we come together, and once and for all address the gun violence epidemic that plagues our nation.”
Governor coming to El Paso
Gov. Greg Abbott said he will travel to El Paso Saturday afternoon.
In an emailed statement, he said: “Today, the El Paso community was struck by a heinous and senseless act of violence. Our hearts go out to the victims of this horrific shooting and to the entire community in this time of loss. While no words can provide the solace needed for those impacted by this event, I ask that all Texans join Cecilia and me in offering our prayers for the victims and their families. The state of Texas and the Department of Public Safety are assisting the El Paso Police Department as they conduct their investigation. We have deployed troopers, special agents, Texas Rangers, tactical teams, and aircraft to the scene in a support role. The state of Texas will do everything it can to ensure justice is delivered to the perpetrators of this heinous act.”
Michael Richards, 37, of Alamogordo, New Mexico, said his wife, son and nephew were in the Hollister store in Cielo Vista. They hunkered down with group of people when the shooting began in the nearby Walmart. He said they heard shots but not in the mall.
He was staying in contact with his wife by cellphone as he paced on a sidewalk on Hawkins Boulevard next to Cielo Vista Mall.
In a statement, Walmart said: “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. We’re working closely with law enforcement & will update as appropriate.”
President Donald Trump weighed in on Twitter, calling the situation “very bad,” and said he promised Abbott federal support, if needed.
“Spoke to Governor to pledge total support of Federal Government,” the president tweeted. “God be with you all!”
In the wake of the mass shooting, El Paso police are asking blood donations to treat the wounded.
Blood may be donated at Vitalant Blood Services at 424 S. Mesa Hills Drive and 133 N. Zaragoza Road.
This story will be updated.
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