White House Bureau Chief Steve Herman contributed to this report.
Police officials in El Paso, Texas, say they are investigating as a possible hate crime the mass shooting Saturday at a Walmart that ended with at least 20 people killed and 26 wounded.
Police chief Greg Allen said the police have an online posting reportedly written by the 21-year-old white male suspect now in custody, that indicates the shooting spree was intended to target Hispanics.
The post appeared online about an hour before the shooting and included language that complained about the “Hispanic invasion” of Texas. The author of the manifesto wrote that he expected to be killed during the attack.
“This vile act of terrorism against Hispanic Americans was inspired by divisive racial and ethnic rhetoric and enabled by weapons of war,” Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas said in a statement.
“The language in the shooter’s manifesto is consistent with President Donald Trump’s description of Hispanic immigrants as ‘invaders,’” said Castro, who is also the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. “Today’s shooting is a stark reminder of the dangers of such rhetoric.”
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrado said three Mexicans were killed in the shooting and six Mexicans were wounded.
Trump posted Saturday on Twitter: “Melania and I send our heartfelt thoughts and prayers to the great people of Texas.”
Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who traveled to El Paso, told reporters, “We as a state unite in support of these victims and their family members. ... We pray that God can be with those who have been harmed in any way and bind up their wounds.”
First calls come in
Police began receiving calls at 10:39 a.m. local time with multiple reports of a shooting at Walmart and the nearby Cielo Vista Mall complex on the east side of the city.
Sgt. Robert Gomez, a spokesman with the El Paso Police Department, said most of the shootings occurred at the Walmart, where there were more than 1,000 shoppers and 100 employees. Many families were taking advantage of a sales-tax holiday to shop for back-to-school supplies, officials said.
“This is unprecedented in El Paso,” Gomez said of the mass shooting.
El Paso Mayor Dee Margo told CNN, “This is just a tragedy that I’m having a hard time getting my arms around.”
Originally, Margo, as well as several witnesses, said there were several shooters involved. But police said they believe there was just one shooter.
“I can confirm that it is a white male in his 20s,” El Paso police spokesman Gomez said. “We believe he’s the sole shooter.”
Gomez said an assault-style rifle was used in the shooting.
249th mass shooting so far this year
The El Paso shooting is the nation’s 249th mass shooting incident this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. The archive defines a mass shooting as four or more people shot or killed, excluding the gunman, at one location.
Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, who formerly represented the El Paso district in the U.S. House, was at an event in Las Vegas when he heard of the shooting.
“I just ask for everyone’s strength for El Paso right now. Everyone’s resolve to make sure that this does not continue to happen in this country,” he said, adding he was immediately returning home to El Paso, where his family lives.
Saturday’s shooting comes less than a week after a mass shooting at a festival in Gilroy, California, where three people, including two children, were killed and 13 others were injured. It was also the second fatal shooting in less than a week at a Walmart store. A gunman shot and killed two people and injured two others Tuesday in Mississippi, before he was shot and arrested by police.
El Paso, a city of about 680,000 people in western Texas, shares the border with Juarez, Mexico.