Eighteen people are dead and possibly more after at least one man walked into a Wal-Mart in El Paso and started shooting people according to a report:
A shooting at the Walmart in the Cielo Vista Mall area has left multiple people dead, an El Paso police officer said Saturday.
An El Paso police spokesman said the shooting has ended, and Mayor Dee Margo said three suspects have been taken into custody.
However, police spokesman Sgt. Robert Gomez said police believe there was only one shooter and he was in custody. He said the shooting took place at Dillard’s and Cielo Vista. He said a rifle was used in the shooting.
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
An El Paso police officer at the scene said there were multiple fatalities in the attack, although the number was not confirmed. He said the number was not official, but he had been inside the store.
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.”
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 shows a young man in wire-frame glasses, with a pained expression in his profile photo. The account showed three friends, including a possible twin sister.
A Twitter account in the suspect’s name 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.
A spokesman for University Medical Center of El Paso said the hospital has received victims from the shooting, but did not have a number.
Medical personnel gathers near Cielo Vista Mall to respond to shooting at El Paso Walmart. Mark R Lambie, El Paso Times
Extra security is at UMC, where worried relatives have begun arriving.
UMC has received at least 11 shooting victims and they expect to receive more, 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 said.
He 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.
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.
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.”
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.