Joey Garrison, Olivia Sanchez and Samuel Gaytan USA TODAY Published 5:32 PM EDT Aug 3, 2019
EL PASO, Texas — Multiple people are dead and one person is in custody after a mass shooting Saturday morning at Walmart in El Paso, Texas, according to authorities.
With the shooting, a busy weekend shopping day turned into horror. Walmart was “at capacity,” and at a mall across the parking lot, 1,000 to 3,000 people were shopping, El Paso Police Sgt. Robert Gomez said. Videos posted to social media show shoppers scrambling for cover, their hands raised. Police said the scene is now under control, and there is no imminent threat.
Phone calls started coming in at approximately 10 a.m. Mountain Daylight Time about the shooting at the Walmart and possibly at the mall, Gomez said. He said there are “multiple victims,” but did not say how many.
It was unclear Saturday afternoon how many people had been injured or killed. A spokesman at the University Medical Center of El Paso told CNN the hospital had received 13 victims, ranging in ages from 2 to senior citizens. One has died. Another hospital, Del Sol Medical Center, has received 11 victims, CNN reported.
Many people drove themselves or their loved ones to the hospital, Gomez said, adding to the confusion.
Gomez said the suspect is a white male in his 20s. He said initial reports were that the shooter used a rifle, but he could not confirm those reports. Mayor Dee Margo had said earlier that three people were in custody, but police now say they have what is believed to be the lone suspect in custody.
He said additional information will be provided when it is available. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and other state and federal law enforcement agencies are assisting in the investigation.
“This is a tragedy we would have never ever thought would happen in El Paso,” Margo said.
President Donald Trump responded on Twitter, saying, “Terrible shootings in ElPaso, Texas. Reports are very bad, many killed. Working with State and Local authorities, and Law Enforcement. Spoke to Governor to pledge total support of Federal Government. God be with you all!”
Leslie Diaz, 25, started her workday at 7:45 a.m. at the Walmart, which is busy each day with customers from El Paso and Chihuahua. She said she was helping customers at the front of the store in the checkout when she heard multiple large “pops” getting closer and louder.
She said she looked at her coworkers, grabbed some customers and led them out of the store as customers began running and screaming toward the exit.
Near her, Tabitha Estrada, 19, was at a GNC vitamin outlet at the front of the Walmart when she heard customers screaming to get away. She took the people she could into a locked room. Minutes later she could hear police say: “Come out with your hands up!”
U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a Democratic candidate for president whose district includes El Paso, was set to take part in a campaign event in Las Vegas when reports of the shooting came in.
“We have to find some reason for optimism and hope or else we can resign ourselves to a future where nearly 40,000 people a year will lose their lives to gun violence, and I cannot accept that,” O’Rourke said on stage in Las Vegas. He said he planned to return immediately to El Paso.
At around 11 a.m. MDT, the police department tweeted to stay away from the Cielo Vista Mall area. The police also said people should avoid the area from Airway Boulevard to Hawkins Boulevard to north of Interstate 10, near the Walmart.
Multiple videos on social media posted by shoppers have shown people fleeing the nearby mall.
A family who was near Walmart during the shooting fled to a nearby Landry’s Seafood, hostess Sofia Cervantes told USA TODAY.
“They are in shock right now,” Cervantes said. “They were barely able to talk to us.”
Cervantes said the restaurant is on lockdown.
The shooting comes just days after two people were shot and killed in a Walmart store in Southaven, Mississippi, south of Memphis, and the same week three people were killed at a shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California.
This is a developing story.
Contributing: Doug Stanglin of USA TODAY
Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter: @joeygarrison