WASHINGTON – A mass shooting at a crowded shopping mall in the Texan city of El Paso on Saturday left at least 20 people dead and another 26 wounded in the 249th gun rampage so far this year in the United States.
“Twenty innocent people from El Paso have lost their lives, and more than two dozen are injured,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott told a press conference.
Next to Abbot was El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen, who confirmed that 26 people were wounded in the largely-Hispanic city that shares its border with Mexico.
Allen said that the preliminary investigation “indicates to some degree, it has a nexus to potential hate crime.” But he did not give more details.
The suspect, who was not identified, was described by authorities as a white man in his 20s. He surrendered to police officers in the shopping mall without offering resistance.
The shooting took place on Saturday morning at a store belonging to retail giant Walmart, located in south of El Paso, a city that has close to 700,000 inhabitants.
US President Donald Trump expressed his support for local authorities, calling the shooting incident “terrible.”
“Reports are very bad, many killed. Working with state and local authorities, and law enforcement. Spoke to (the) governor to pledge total support of federal government. God be with you all,” Trump tweeted.
Vice President Mike Pence also tweeted that he was “saddened by the loss of so many innocent lives” in El Paso. “Our prayers are with the victims, their families, and the entire community.”
In a video posted on social media, Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador expressed his condolences for the victims and confirmed that three Mexicans were among the dead.
“I am told that three Mexicans lost their lives in this shooting at a mall. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is already attending to this matter,” Lopez Obrador said.
The store was packed with people buying back-to-school supplies at the time of the shooting.
On Saturday evening, the El Paso police tweeted that blood was urgently needed and spoke of “multiple injured transported to various hospitals.”
Robert Curado, a resident of the city and witness to the horrific incident, told local daily El Paso Times how he hid along with his mother between two vending machines just outside the store to avoid being shot.
“That’s where the individual tried to shoot at me. He missed because I kind of ducked down,” Curado said.
David Shrimp, chief executive officer at Del Sol Medical Center, one of the hospitals where the wounded were taken, said in an email that the center’s emergency services had received 11 wounded between the ages of 35 and 82, who were all undergoing treatment.
He said two patients were stable and the other nine were serious.
Meanwhile, Democrat leaders in Congress issued separate statements calling for action to impose stricter gun control in the country and criticized the Republicans, who have a majority in the Senate, for rejecting various legislative proposals in this regard in recent years.
“Too many families in too many communities have been forced to endure the daily horror of gun violence. Enough is enough. The Republican Senate’s continued inaction dishonors our solemn duty to protect innocent men, women and children and end this epidemic once and for all,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.