Texas shooting: Man (21) charged with capital murder after 20 people die

Texas governor calls shooting ‘a hate crime’, as FBI open domestic terror investigation

CCTV image shows the gunman identified as Patrick Crusius, 21 years old, as he enters the Cielo Vista Walmart store in El Paso. Photograph: Courtesy of KTSM 9/KTSM 9 news Channel/AFP/Getty Images

CCTV image shows the gunman identified as Patrick Crusius, 21 years old, as he enters the Cielo Vista Walmart store in El Paso. Photograph: Courtesy of KTSM 9/KTSM 9 news Channel/AFP/Getty Images

 

US president Donald Trump has ordered flags to be lowered to half-mast on all federal buildings, after a man shot 20 people and wounded more than two dozen in Texas.

The gunman, armed with a rifle, opened fire in an El Paso Walmart packed with as many as 3,000 people during the busy back-to-school season.

The suspect has been charged with capital murder, according to jail records.

Federal authorities said they were weighing hate-crime charges against the gunman, who has been identified by the FBI as 21-year-old Patrick Crusius, on Sunday. If found guilty, he could be sentenced to the death penalty.

A photograph of a mug shot by the FBI of Patrick Crusius, the suspect in the mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. Photograph: FBI handout/EPA
A photograph of a mug shot by the FBI of Patrick Crusius, the suspect in the mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. Photograph: FBI handout/EPA

A local prosecutor announced he would bring capital murder charges against Crusius, saying the suspect “lost the right to be among us”.

Texas governor Greg Abbott said Saturday morning’s rampage appeared to be a hate crime, and police are working to establish if a “manifesto” is linked to the charged man.

In the “manifesto” posted online shortly before the shooting, the writer expressed concern that an influx of Hispanics into the US will replace ageing white voters, potentially turning Texas blue in upcoming elections and swinging the White House to the Democrats.

The writer was also critical of Republicans for what he described as close ties to corporations and degradation of the environment.

Texas governor Greg Abbott at a briefing following the shooting in El Paso. Photogrpah: by Joel Angel Juarez/AFP/Getty Images
Texas governor Greg Abbott at a briefing following the shooting in El Paso. Photogrpah: by Joel Angel Juarez/AFP/Getty Images

The writer denied he was a white supremacist but the document says “race mixing” is destroying the nation and recommends dividing the US into territorial enclaves determined by race. It also expressed for support for the gunman who killed 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March.

‘Hate crime’

Crusius is from Allen, Texas, a Dallas suburb some 1,046 km east of El Paso, which lies along the Rio Grande across the US-Mexico border from Ciudad Juarez.

Local television station KTSM-TV published two photos it cited a law enforcement source as saying were security-camera images of the suspect as he entered the Walmart, wearing glasses, khaki trousers and a dark T-shirt, and wielding an assault-style rifle. He appeared to be wearing headphones or ear protection.

Several local politicians said the gunman was an outsider, suggesting he had travelled hundreds of miles from the Dallas area to commit mass murder. But El Paso police spokesman sergeant Robert Gomez declined to say how long the suspect might have been in El Paso before the shooting.

“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,” Mr Abbott told reporters.

Police said the suspect opened fire with a rifle on shoppers, many of them in the mall for back-to-school supplies, then surrendered to officers who confronted him outside the store.

‘Stoking racism’

El Paso native Beto O’Rourke, who is running for the Democratic nomination for US president, and previously represented the Texas city for six years in Congress, accused Donald Trump of being a “racist” who was trying to make Americans “afraid” of migrants, and drew connections to a resurgence in white nationalism and xenophobic politics in the US.

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke at the scene of a mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. Photograph: Larry W Smith/EPA
Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke at the scene of a mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. Photograph: Larry W Smith/EPA

There was a link between Mr Trump’s hostile comments about Muslims, migrants and people of colour to a rise in hate crimes, Mr O’Rourke told CNN after cutting short campaigning in Nevada to return to El Paso.

Asked if the shooting was Mr Trump’s fault for inflaming hatred, he said “yes”.

“We’ve had a rise in hate crimes every single one of the last three years during an administration where you have a president who has called Mexicans rapists and criminals, though Mexican immigrants commit crimes at a far lower rate than people born in this country.

“He has tried to make us afraid of them – attempting to ban all Muslims from this country. The day that he signed that executive order the mosque in Victoria, Texas was burned to the ground. Those chants that we heard in Greenville North Carolina – ‘send her back’ – talking about fellow American citizens duly elected to represent their constituents in Congress...

“He is a racist. He is stoking racism in this country ... and it fundamentally changes the character of the country and leads to violence.”

Speaking to reporters on Sunday afternoon in Morristown, New Jersey, Mr Trump said that "hate has no place in our country". The US president said he had spoken to the FBI, attorney general William Barr and members of Congress about what can be done to prevent such violence, and said he would make a full statement on Monday.

On Twitter, Mr Trump offered prayers for the shooting victims in El Paso, Texas, and ordered that flags should be lowered to half-mast on government buildings until August 8th.

The massacre came just six days after the last major outbreak of US gun violence in a public place – a food festival in California, where a teenager killed three people with an assault rifle and injured a dozen others before taking his own life in a hail of police gunfire.

The Texas killings were followed just 13 hours later by another mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, where a gunman in body armour killed at least nine people and wounded 26 others early on Sunday in the city’s downtown historic district before he was shot dead by police.

People hold their mobile phones with flash on during a vigil in Ciudad Juarez, which lies just over the border from El Paso in Mexico. Photograph: Herika Martinez/AFP/Getty Images
People hold their mobile phones with flash on during a vigil in Ciudad Juarez, which lies just over the border from El Paso in Mexico. Photograph: Herika Martinez/AFP/Getty Images

Victims

El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, together with the neighbouring city of Las Cruces, New Mexico, form a metropolitan border area of some 2.5 million residents constituting the largest bilingual, bi-national population in North America.

Mexico’s president Andrés Manuel Lopez Obradór said three Mexican nationals were among the 20 people killed in the shooting, and six others were among 26 victims who were wounded.

Relatives said a 25-year-old woman who was shot while trying to shield her two-month-old son was among those killed.

Ryan Mielke, a spokesman for University Medical Centre of El Paso, said 13 of the wounded were brought to the hospital, including one who died.

Two of the injured were children who were transferred to El Paso Children’s Hospital, he said.

People donate blood at a blood bank in El Paso, Texas. Photograph: Adriana Zehbrauskas/The New York Times
People donate blood at a blood bank in El Paso, Texas. Photograph: Adriana Zehbrauskas/The New York Times

A total of 11 other victims ages 35 to 82 were being treated at Del Sol Medical Centre, hospital spokesman Victor Guerrero said.

Residents quickly volunteered to give blood to the injured.

Mr Gomez said investigators were still determining the sequence of events. But video clips from the scene showed victims lying on the ground inside and outside the store. One shopper told Reuters the gunshots sounded like they began outside the building and then moved inside.

El Paso mayor Dee Margo said police responded to the shooting within six minutes.

Eyewitnesses described scenes of pandemonium as shoppers fled, including Kianna Long who was at the Walmart with her husband when they heard gunfire.

The couple sprinted through a stock room at the back of the store before huddling with other customers in a shipping area, she recounted. “People were panicking and running,” Ms Long said. “They were running close to the floor, people were dropping on the floor.”– Agencies