In less than 24 hours this weekend, 30 people were killed and dozens were left wounded from two unrelated shooting sprees in Texas and Ohio.
In El Paso, a gunman opened fire Saturday morning in a shopping area packed with thousands of people during the busy back-to-school season. The attack killed 21 and wounded more than two dozen, many of them critically. One of those killed died early Monday at a hospital.
Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday ordered Texas flags across the state to be lowered to half-staff in memory of those who lost their lives in the shooting. The order remains in effect through Thursday.
“[Saturday], the El Paso community was struck by a heinous and senseless act of violence,” Abbott said. “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 El Paso shooting is being investigated as a possible hate crime as authorities worked to confirm whether a racist, anti-immigrant screed posted online shortly beforehand was written by the man arrested. The border city is home to 680,000 people, many of them Latino.
FBI Director Christopher Wray said the attack in El Paso underscores the continued threat posed by domestic violent extremists and perpetrators of hate crimes.
“On behalf of the FBI, I offer sincere condolences to the victims, families and communities affected by this weekend’s violence, and we stand by them during this difficult time,” Wray said. “We will bring the full resources of the FBI to bear in the pursuit of justice for the victims of these crimes. I am proud of our state and local law enforcement partners and the immediate response of FBI agents, analysts and professional staff, working in close coordination to assist them. I have been in contact with the president and the attorney general, and they both have expressed their support for the FBI’s work in the wake of these tragedies.”
El Paso authorities offered few details about the assault, but Police Chief Greg Allen described the scene as “horrific” and said many of the 26 people who were hurt had life-threatening injuries.
Authorities identified the El Paso suspect as 21-year-old Patrick Crusius from Allen, a Dallas suburb which is a nearly 10-hour drive from El Paso.
El Paso Mayor Dee Margo said he knew the shooter was not from his city.
Hours later in Dayton, Ohio, a gunman wearing body armor and carrying extra magazines opened fire in a popular nightlife area, killing nine and wounding more than two dozen people.
Officers patrolling the area took just 30 seconds to stop the shooting, which unfolded around 1 a.m. on the streets of the downtown Oregon District, Mayor Nan Whaley said.
Video released by police shows 24-year-old Connor Betts being shot down by officers, just steps away from entering a bar filled with hiding patrons.
Had police not responded so quickly, “hundreds of people in the Oregon District could be dead today,” Whaley said.
Betts’ 22-year-old sister, Megan Betts, was among those killed in Dayton.
Response to tragedies
The American Red Cross is working in close coordination with emergency officials to provide comfort and support to the affected communities. In El Paso specifically, Red Cross volunteers are also supporting a family assistance center.
After Saturday’s shootings, the Red Cross released a statement on its website.
“Volunteer blood donors are needed each and every day to help save lives,” the statement reads. “These tragedies illustrate that it is the blood already on the shelves that helps during an emergency. Unfortunately, fewer blood donors and blood drives during the summer months make it one of the most challenging times of the year for blood and platelet donations. The Red Cross is grateful for all donors who generously give blood throughout the country.”
U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin, said background checks for potential gun owners are important.
“I think we could do some things to it to make it better; I would be glad to look at that,” he said. “In the past I have not voted for universal background checks, but we need to take a look at those kinds of things. We don’t want the wrong people having guns. But we can’t take guns away from the good people and assume the bad people will not have them.”
Williams said in situations involving gun violence, he believes people deal with political answers instead of what he believes are real answers.
“This thing is generational; we have a group of young people that we’re losing at a very early age,” he said. “They are isolating themselves. They don’t have parental guidance. They don’t have a parental unit. They don’t have people that are frankly telling them they love them.
“I know when I was growing up, we played baseball, basketball and football in the front yard until mother told us to come home. We were involved in Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts. We were involved in church. And we need to get back to this, and this really is the answer.
“In generations, from my generations on down to Millennials have to address this. Creating a generation where people can get out in the sunshine and begin to realize that there’s great opportunities out there, and not isolate themselves.”
President Donald Trump tweeted Monday that Washington “must come together” in the wake of the shootings “to get strong background checks” for gun users. But he provided no details on what sort of legislation he would support.
The Democrat-led House has passed a gun control bill that includes fixes to the nation’s firearm background check system, but it has languished in the GOP-controlled Senate.
Trump suggested Monday that a background check bill could be paired with his long-sought effort to toughen the nation’s immigration system. He didn’t say how.
Democratic presidential candidate and former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke, who is from El Paso and was at a candidate forum Saturday in Las Vegas, appeared shaken after receiving news of the shooting in his hometown.
He said he heard early reports that the shooter might have had a military-style weapon, saying we need to “keep that (expletive) on the battlefield. Do not bring it into our communities.”
The shootings were the 21st and 22nd mass killings of 2019 in the U.S., according to the Associated Press/USA Today/Northeastern University mass murder database that tracks homicides where four or more people killed — not including the offender.
The FBI remains concerned that U.S.-based domestic violent extremists could become inspired by these and previous high-profile attacks to engage in similar acts of violence. The FBI asks the American public to report to law enforcement any suspicious activity that is observed either in person or online.
Information in this report comes from the Associated Press.