By Sean Jackson
On Saturday, August 3rd a man opened fire inside a Walmart located in El Paso, Texas, reportedly killing 22 people and wounding another 24. The man, who police identified as Patrick Crusius, entered the store packed with as many as 3,000 people carrying a rifle and began shooting. Officers from the El Paso Police Department, Homeland Security, Texas State Troopers, and Border Patrol responded to the scene.
The suspect surrendered to police officers and was subsequently taken into custody without incident. The mayor of El Paso, Dee Margo, stated that the police made it to the scene within six minutes. Images of the suspect taken by store cameras show him wearing khaki trousers, a dark t-shirt, ear protection, and carrying an AK-47 style weapon.
Most of the injured were initially taken to the University Medical Center of El Paso, where a number of victims remained in surgery according to hospital spokesperson Ryan Mielke. Two victims reportedly died in the hospital.
The El Paso Police Department initially reported at 11 p.m. on the day of the incident that there may have been more than one suspect in the shooting. Police conducted a door-to-door search of businesses in the general location of the Walmart searching for additional suspects. Police officials later stated that Crusius was the only shooter that the department could confirm.
Crusius travelled nearly 650 miles to the El Paso Walmart from his hometown of Allen, Texas. El Paso is located alongside the Rio Grande and is adjacent to the U.S.-Mexico border and Ciudad Juarez.
The El Paso police stated that they were examining a reported 'manifesto' allegedly written by the suspect. El Paso police chief Greg Allen stated "that there is a potential nexus to a hate crime." The four-page document posted to online image-board 8chan claims that the attack was "a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas." The document also stated support for the Christchurch mosque gunman who killed 51 people in New Zealand this past March.
Further updates about the manifesto have not been released by El Paso police, but it has been reported that the FBI has opened an investigation about treating the situation as a possible domestic terror situation.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott weighed in on the situation, telling reporters, "We are going to aggressively prosecute it both as capital murder but also as a hate crime, which is exactly what it appears to be. I don't want to get ahead of the evidence."
President Donald Trump took to Twitter, and stated the shooting is "an act of cowardice," and, "I know that I stand with everyone in this Country to condemn today's hateful act. There are no reasons or excuses that will ever justify killing innocent people."
On Sunday August 4th, the Foreign Ministry of Mexico stated that the attack was a "terrorist act against innocent Mexicans." Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said in a video posted to Twitter that Mexico will act, adding, "The President has instructed me to ensure that Mexico's indignation translates into efficient, prompt, expeditious and forceful legal actions for Mexico to take a role and demand that conditions are established that protect Mexicans in the United States." While police still have not released a list of the victims of the attack, Ebrard tweeted the names of five Mexican nationals who were killed in Saturday's shooting. Reports have identified some of the other victims in the shooting.
County prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Crusius, while federal authorities separately pursuing a domestic terrorism charge. The El Paso District Attorney Jaime Esparza spoke with reporters on Sunday, stating, "I know the death penalty is something very powerful, but in this occasion it's something that is necessary."
The U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas, John Bash, stated that the crime meets federal domestic terrorism criteria, saying, "This meets [the definition], it appears to be designed to intimidate a civilian population, and we are going to do what we do to terrorists in this country which is deliver swift and certain justice."
While both federal and state authorities are seeking maximum charges on the suspect, the FBI has not established whether or not Crusius acted on his own accord or whether he was working in conjunction with others. Jeanette Harper, the spokesperson for the El Paso FBI office stated they are conducting interviews, and have executed three search warrants in tandem with the investigation.
"Through those interviews we're putting the investigation together to be able to determine if he was part of a group or working with other individuals that were planning any future attacks," Harper stated. "At this point we don't have any credible intelligence to say there is anything going on in the future."