The El Paso shooting suspect travelled 10 hours to carry out the shootings. (AP: Christian Chavez)
The man accused of carrying out the deadly mass shooting at a Walmart in the US border city of El Paso confessed to officers while he was surrendering and later explained he had been targeting Mexicans, authorities say.
- Eight of those killed during the El Paso attack were Mexican and most had Hispanic surnames
- Mr Trump says he will push for stronger gun laws, but has reassured the NRA its views will be respected
- Companies are marketing bullet-resistant backpacks to school students in time for back-to-school season
Shortly after the attack last Saturday (local time), Patrick Crusius — holding his hands up — emerged from a vehicle that was stopped at an intersection and told officers, “I’m the shooter,” Detective Adrian Garcia said in an arrest warrant affidavit.
The 21-year-old later agreed to speak with detectives, telling them he entered the store with an AK-47 assault rifle and multiple magazines, and he was targeting Mexicans.
Twenty-two people were killed and about two dozen were injured. Most of the dead had Hispanic last names and eight were Mexican nationals.
Authorities believe that shortly before the attack, Mr Crusius posted a racist screed online that railed against an influx of Hispanics into the US.
The document parrots some of US President Donald Trump’s divisive rhetoric about immigration, but the writer said his views predate Mr Trump’s rise and that any attempt to blame the President for his actions was “fake news”.
Many El Paso residents, protesters and Democrats have blasted Mr Trump over his incendiary words, blaming him for inflaming political and racial tensions throughout the country.
Mr Trump has denied stoking division and violence, contending this week that he “brings people together. Our country is doing incredibly well”.
At least 200 protesters gathered opposite Dayton’s Miami Valley Hospital to criticise Mr Trump’s political rhetoric. (AP: John Minchillo)
Authorities say Mr Crusius drove more than 10 hours from his hometown near Dallas to carry out the shooting in the largely Latino border city of El Paso.
An attorney for the Crusius family, Chris Ayres, said the rest of the family never heard Mr Crusius use the kind of racist and anti-immigrant language that was posted online.
Mr Crusius has been charged with capital murder and is being held without bond. Federal prosecutors have said they are also considering hate-crime charges.
The attack came hours before another mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, in which nine people were killed.
The dual shootings killed 31 people in all and wounded dozens more, reigniting calls for Congress to take immediate action to reduce gun violence.
Trump to push for stronger background check laws, but reassures NRA
Mr Trump said on Friday he believed he had influence to rally Republicans around stronger federal background check laws.
At the same time, Mr Trump said he had assured the National Rifle Association (NRA) its gun-rights views would be “fully represented and respected”. He said he was hopeful the NRA would not be an obstacle to strengthening the nation’s gun laws.
Mr Trump has promised to lead on tougher gun control measures before, including after the 2018 Parkland, Florida, school shooting, but little has come of it.
His comments in the wake of the twin massacres marked his most optimistic and supportive words in favour of more stringent gun laws, though he left the details vague.
He said on Friday he was now looking for “very meaningful background checks” but was not considering a resurrection of a ban on assault weapons.
He said he also believed politicians would support “red flag” laws that allowed guns to be removed from those who may be a danger to themselves and others.
“I see a better feeling right now toward getting something meaningful done,” Mr Trump told reporters when asked why the political environment was different now.
“I have a greater influence now over the Senate and the House.”
The politics of gun control are shifting amid the frequency and toll of mass shootings. Spending to support candidates backing tougher gun control measures — mostly Democrats — surged in the 2018 midterms elections, even as campaign spending by the NRA declined.
The NRA says proposals being discussed in Congress would not have prevented the shootings in Texas and Ohio.
Walmart removes video game signs but continues to sell guns
Walmart has ordered workers to remove video game signs and displays that depict violence from stores nationwide after the shooting at its Texas store.
In an internal memo, the retailer told employees to remove any violent marketing material, unplug Xbox and PlayStation consoles that show violent video games and turn off any violence depicted on screens in its electronics departments.
Employees also were asked to shut off hunting season videos in the sporting goods department where guns are sold. “Remove from the salesfloor or turn off these items immediately,” the memo said.
Walmart will still sell the violent video games and has not made any changes to its gun sales policy, despite pressure from workers, politicians and activists to do so.
“We’ve taken this action out of respect for the incidents of the past week,” Walmart spokeswoman Tara House said in an email. She declined to answer any questions beyond the statement.
“That is a non-answer and a non-solution,” said Thomas Marshall, who works at Walmart’s e-commerce division in San Bruno, California, and has helped organise a petition to get the company to stop selling guns.
He said a petition, which had had more than 53,000 signatures, was expected to be sent to Walmart chief executive Doug McMillon on Friday.
After the massacre at the El Paso Walmart, Mr McMillon said the company “will be thoughtful and deliberate in our responses”.
After the mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school last year, Walmart Inc. banned sales of firearms and ammunition to people younger than 21. It had stopped selling AR-15s and other semi-automatic weapons in 2015, citing weak sales.
On Monday Mr Trump blamed “gruesome and grisly video games” for encouraging violence, but there is no known link between violent video games and violent acts.
Bullet-resistant backpacks for school children
Steve Naremore, founder and CEO of TuffyPacks, fires nine rounds into a backpack. (AP: Michael Wyke)
Companies such as Guard Dog Security, TuffyPacks and Bullet Blocker are selling bullet-resistant backpacks for children in time for the back-to-school shopping season.
But critics argue they are using tragedy as a marketing opportunity and exploiting parents’ worst fears.
Yasir Sheikh, founder and president of Skyline USA, which makes Guard Dog Security products such as pepper spray and stun guns, said he started offering smaller bullet-resistant backpacks for children last year.
“Times have changed,” he said, noting the item was very popular and sold out several times after the Parkland shooting that left 17 people dead. “Our product is in response to that. It’s a sad reality.”
Steve Naremore founded Houston-based TuffyPacks in late 2015 after his daughter, a fourth-grade teacher, told him about the frequency of active shooting drills for her students.
His company produces some bullet-resistant backpacks but the bulk of his business is in removable ballistic shields that are inserted in backpacks.
He said his backpacks could be the difference between suffering “lethal versus non-lethal” injuries.
“It acts as a defensive shield,” Mr Naremore said, noting sales of the shields tripled in the days after the mass shooting in El Paso.
TuffyPacks markets its products on its website with mass shootings in mind: “Are you and your family protected in the event of a school or workplace shooting? Be prepared for the worst situation with the industry’s best ballistic shields!”
Two mass shootings in less than 24 hours left 31 dead and dozens injured. (AP: Andres Leighton)
Man arrested at Missouri Walmart with rifle and 100 rounds
A 20-year-old man was arrested on Thursday (local time) after he walked into a Walmart store in Missouri dressed in body armour and carrying a loaded rifle and 100 rounds of ammunition.
Dmitriy Andreychenko was charged with making a terrorist threat after alarming customers inside the store in Springfield, police in a statement that provided no further details.
Mr Andreychenko was arrested after walking out of the store with his weapon, Springfield police said. No shots were fired in the incident.
Police believe the man intended to cause chaos, but they were also working to determine his motives, they told the Springfield News-Leader newspaper.
It was a “really scary, dangerous situation,” police at the scene told media, adding that they would investigate the man’s social media accounts to try to determine if a threat was intended.
Missouri is a state that allows people to openly bear firearms without a special permit, but there are some restrictions, for example, on convicted felons.