gun violence

Everything We Know About the El Paso Walmart Massacre

Law enforcement agencies respond to an active shooter at a Walmart near Cielo Vista Mall in El Paso, Texas, Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019. Photo: Joel Angel Juarez/AFP/Getty Images

22 people were killed and another 24 injured when an anti-immigrant gunman armed with an assault rifle attacked shoppers at an El Paso Walmart in what federal authorities now consider an act of domestic terrorism. Below is what we know so far.

The attack

Just after 10:30 a.m. on Saturday in El Paso, a young white gunman began opening fire at the Walmart next to the city’s popular Cielo Vista Mall. The shooter, dressed in dark clothing and wearing earmuff-style hearing protection, was armed with an AK-47-style assault rifle and extra magazines. He began his attack by firing on victims in the Walmart parking lot, then continued his rampage inside the store, reportedly stalking his victims through the aisles. One witness, per ABC News, “described seeing victims near the shooter who became cornered — with nowhere to run — and then watched the gunman raise a rifle, aim it at them and start firing.”

Many of the more than a thousand shoppers and 100 employees who had been inside the store fled, while others tried to hide from the gunman or help others. Nearby stores and restaurants in the adjacent shopping center went into lockdown.

Chris Grant, who was wounded in the attack, said the shooter targeted people who appeared to be Hispanic, but let white and black shoppers out of the building. Grant could have escaped, but he tried to distract the gunman by throwing soda bottles at him and was shot two times near his rib cage. “I did what any good man would’ve done,” Grant told CNN.

One Walmart employee, Gilbert Serna, may have saved about 150 people’s lives during the shooting. BuzzFeed reports that when he heard shots were fired over his radio, he quickly ushered about 100 customers and employees through a fire exit, and into four shipping containers, closing the doors behind them. Then he went into the parking lot and led another 50 or 60 people to safety in a nearby Sam’s Club.

“That’s when I noticed people with gunshot wounds to their legs, arms, thighs, some graze wounds,” he said. “That’s when it really hit me — like, oh man, this guy’s out to kill people.”

Gruesome footage recorded by witnesses and shared on social media after the attack showed several victims lying bloodied and motionless on the ground in the parking lot and just inside the store. Here’s how the El Paso Times summarized one terrifying video which a witness posted on Facebook:

At the start of the video, a woman runs toward the store, past a truck that a shopping cart has run into, with a body lying on the ground beside it. Children were holding a fundraiser at the store and some reportedly were among the casualties.

At the front of the store, victims’ bodies are shown near a table that appeared to have items for sale. The body of a man in bluejeans and a blue shirt is seen on the ground near the table, lying on his stomach, seemingly dead, as a woman rushes over to help. Near him is a woman, taking cover between a garbage can and the wall.

A person is shown lying motionless to the left of the table, under a shade covering set up over it, as a woman tries to help. Nearby, by the wall of the building, a man lies on his side in a pool of dark blood, with a bandage on his back. A voice tells him, “Try not to move,” adding, “Stay with me, OK?”

Some witnesses originally reported seeing multiple shooters, but as is typically the case with mass shootings, those reports turned out to be unfounded, as were reports of additional attacks at other locations at the mall. El Paso police later confirmed that they had arrested only one suspect and did not believe anyone else was involved in the attack.

Responding officers had made it to scene just six minutes after the attack was reported, but none ultimately fired their weapons. The gunman surrendered to police “without incident” outside the store, according to an El Paso police official. By that time, the well-armed assailant had murdered 20 people and wounded another 26, all in or outside of the Walmart (2 of the injured died Monday morning, bringing the death toll to 22). The suspect, Patrick Crusius, later reportedly told investigators that he had wanted to shoot as many Mexicans as he could. He had also published a four-page essay detailing his white-nationalist and anti-immigrant views prior to the attack.

Walmart responded to the shooting on Saturday afternoon:

The victims

On Monday, police identified all 22 victims:

Andre Pablo Anchondo, 23 of El Paso 
Jordan Anchondo, 24 of El Paso 
Arturo Benavidez, 60 
Leonard Cipeda Campos, 41 
Maria Flores, 77 
Raul Flores, 77 
Jorge Calvillo Garcia, 61 of Torreón 
Adolfo Cerros Hernandez, 68 of Aguascalientes 
Alexander Gerhard Hoffman, 66 
David Alvah Johnson, 63 
Luis Alfonzo Juarez, 90 
Maria Eugenia Legarrega Rothe, 58 of Chihuahua 
Elsa Libera Marquez, 57 of Yepomera 
Maribel Loya, 56 
Ivan Hilierto Manzano, 46 of Juárez 
Gloria Irma Marquez, 61 of Juárez 
Margie Reckard, 63 
Sarah Esther Regaldo Moriel, 66 of Ciudad Juárez 
Javier Rodriguez, 15 
Teresa Sanchez, 82 
Angelina Silva-Elisbee, 86 
Juan Velazquez, 77

Jordan Anchondo, a 25-year-old mother of three, was killed shielding her two-month-old son, according to her sister. The boy survived with only broken bones after Anchondo was shot and fell with him in her arms. After waiting 24 hours to find out what happened to her husband, Andre Anchondo, the family confirmed that he died as well, trying to shield both his wife and baby.

Another victim killed in the attack, Arturo Benavides, was shopping with his wife when the shooting began. They became separated and she made it out alive, but Mr. Benavides, an Army veteran and former public bus driver, did not. Buzzfeed News reports that his family spent Saturday and Sunday searching for him, only to eventually learn that he was among the dead.

Eight Mexican citizens were killed in the attack and six wounded Mexican nationals remained hospitalized on Monday.

On Sunday, Mexico’s foreign minister said the country would take “forceful legal actions” over the shooting to ensure the U.S. protected Mexican nationals when they were north of the border. A day later he said Mexico will investigate the shooting as an act of terrorism and may request that the shooter be extradited to Mexico for trial.

“We consider this an act of terrorism, in this case carried out in U.S. territory, but an act of terrorism against Mexicans,” Ebrard said. “It will be the first investigative case of this importance in the history of Mexico regarding terrorism in United States territory,” he added.

Little is yet known about the rest of the victims wounded in the attack, other than where they ended up afterwards. Eleven people with traumatic injuries were transported to University of Medical Center of El Paso, where one subsequently died. A 2-year-old and a 9-year-old were among those treated there, and the children were later transferred to El Paso Children’s Hospital after being stabilized. Another 11 victims, ranging in age from 35 to 82, were taken to Del Sol Medical Center, where nine remained in critical condition on Saturday night following treatment.

The gunman and investigation

21-year-old Patrick Wood Crusius was taken into custody after surrendering to police outside the Walmart. He was reportedly booked on capital murder charges on Sunday, and the El Paso district attorney’s office has already said they will seek the death penalty. The gunman is also facing possible hate crime charges from local prosecutors, and the assault is being officially treated as a domestic terrorist attack by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas and the FBI. All were conducting investigations into the shooting.

According to El Paso police, the AK-47-style assault rifle the gunman used in the attack was purchased legally.

Crusius had reportedly been living with his grandparents in Allen, Texas, a mostly-white Dallas suburb which is more than 600 miles from El Paso. El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen said following his 10-hour drive to El Paso, Crusius got lost in a neighborhood and wound up at Walmart “because, we understand, he was hungry.” Law enforcement sources told ABC News that he cased the store first, then came back in with weapons.

Former high school classmates who spoke with the Los Angeles Times remembered him as a irritable loner who was often teased by other students.

The shooter also appears to have published a long, hate-filled screed on the 8chan message board outlining his rationale and tactics — making Saturday’s attack the third deadly assault of the year that a white nationalist assailant previewed with a post on the site.

Crusius has still not appeared in court for his arraignment, as the investigation is still ongoing. Though authorities are treating the shooting as a domestic terrorism case, legal experts noted he is unlikely to be charged as a terrorist, as there is no domestic terrorism law on the books.

The gunman’s alleged screed and suspected motive

The gunman is believed to have authored a four-page, 2,300-word diatribe that was shared minutes before the attack on the racism-infested 8chan message board. The document contains numerous white nationalism-themed claims, as well as key, apparently accurate details about how he would carry it his attack.

El Paso police referred to the document as a “nexus to a potential hate crime” on Saturday, but authorities have not confirmed Crusius was the author, though there has been no evidence to indicate he was not.

If the shooter was indeed the author, it leaves little doubt that Crusius’s intent was to launch a devastating terrorist attack targeting people with Latin American ancestry. He claimed, as President Trump and many others on the right recently have, that Latin America immigrants represented a “Hispanic invasion,” and promoted “great replacement” conspiracy theory has become popular with white nationalists and their allies. Based on the arguments in the 8chan post, the gunman hoped his attack and words would inspire additional like-minded attacks and lead to a wider racial violence in pursuit of a white ethnostate.

The document also favorably referenced the Australian white supremacist who slaughtered 51 innocent people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand earlier this year. That mass murderer published a similar pre-massacre diatribe which undoubtedly inspired the El Paso shooter as well as the gunmen who killed a woman in an attack on a San Diego synagogue following the Christchurch massacre.

The document’s author insisted that his views were not about party politics and predated Trump’s political rise. (“Don’t blame Trump,” he wrote at one point.) That may or may not be true, but Crusius’s social media accounts made it clear that he was a big fan of Trump and his war on immigrants.

Outside the Walmart in El Paso on Saturday. Photo: Vic Kolenc/Twitter

The gunman’s target

El Paso’s identity has always been tied to the binational makeup of its residents, economy, and shared metropolitan area with Ciudad Juárez south of the border. More than 80 percent of its almost 700,000 residents have some amount of Hispanic or Latino ancestry, and the city has always been an epicenter of Mexican American culture and pro-immigration advocacy.

Cielo Vista Mall, which is close to the Mexican border on the city’s east side, is not just a popular shopping destination for both El Pasans and Mexicans, who have traditionally crossed the border to shop there, albeit less frequently in recent years as the border crossing has become more strict. It is a binational mall in the heart of America’s most binational city.

Did fears about ICE prevent victims from seeking help afterwards?

Though ICE agents were reportedly at the scene of the shooting to assist local law enforcement, there have been no confirmed reports that any victims avoided authorities under the assumption they would be targeted by the agency.

It is of course possible it still happened. Former Obama administration Homeland Security official Juliette Kayyem, said Saturday on CNN that it was likely it had. Responding to a police official’s worry that some victims had left the scene or were treating their injuries themselves, Kayyem speculated that “it’s clear that there are people not unifying with their family and that there are people who are worried or injured that did not go to hospitals likely because of their immigration status.”

El Paso immigration attorney Cynthia Lopez said Saturday on Twitter that she had “heard rumors that some El Paso victims drove themselves home because they were scared of ICE,” but was not sure if they were true.

As far as whether or not any victims were targeted a second time in this manner, there have been no reports of that either, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s West Texas office told NBC News that, “We are not conducting enforcement operations at area hospitals, the family reunification center or shelters. We stand in support of our community.”

Part of an epidemic

The El Paso massacre is one of the worst mass shootings in modern American history. With the death toll at 22, it’s the worst attack of 2019, the eighth-deadliest mass shooting on record, and the fifth mass shooting since 2016 in which 17 or more people were killed.

Mourning victims of mass shootings and the inevitable cycle of outrage, predictable arguments, exasperation, and political inaction — thanks to the GOP’s unshakeable loyalty to the gun lobby — has become a new American pastime.

The El Paso attack also comes less than one week after another gunman opened fire on revelers at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California, killing two children and one man. The attack was also followed by the third mass shooting in that same week. Early Sunday morning another white gunman killed nine people and injured another 26 after he opened fire in Dayton, Ohio’s crowded nightlife district.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have now been 251 U.S. mass shootings recorded in 2019.

Saturday’s attack additional provided yet another shocking episode of hate-motivated violence, particularly during Trump’s presidency.

The response from residents

Stories of heroism have emerged:

El Paso residents also quickly answered local hospitals’ calls for blood donations:

On Monday, presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, who is from El Paso and has forcefully called out President Trump’s rhetoric in the wake of the shooting, said that the president should not bother visiting the area.

This is a developing news story and this post has been repeatedly updated throughout.

Everything We Know About the El Paso Walmart Massacre