The shooting that killed 20 people at a crowded El Paso shopping area will be handled as a domestic terrorism case, federal authorities have said.
They weighed hate-crime charges against the gunman, who has been identified by the FBI as 21-year-old Patrick Crusius, on Sunday.
If found guilty, he could be sentenced to the death penalty.
A local prosecutor announced he would bring capital murder charges against Crusius, saying the suspect “lost the right to be among us”.
The attack on Saturday morning was followed less than a day later by another shooting that claimed nine lives in a nightlife district of Dayton, Ohio.
That gunman was killed by police.
Investigators were focusing on whether the El Paso attack was a hate crime after the emergence of a racist, anti-immigrant screed that was posted online shortly beforehand.
Returning to his hometown, the site of a mass shooting yesterday that left 20 dead and two dozen injured, Democrat Presidential candidate Beto O’ Rourke linked Donald Trump’s racist rhetoric to a growth in hate crimes.
A shaken Beto O’Rourke told CNN: “We’ve had a rise in hate crimes every single one of the last three years during an administration where you’ve had a president who’s called Mexicans ‘rapists’ and ‘criminals,’ though Mexican immigrants commit crimes at a far lower rate than those born here in the country.”
Speaking to media after visiting victims and medics at the University Medical Center in El Paso, the local politician said of the President who has recently ramped up racial tensions by calling for political opponents from ethnic backgrounds to “go home” to their country: “He is a racist and he stokes racism in this country, and it does not offend our sensibilities, it fundamentally changes the character of this country and it leads to violence.”
Police are investigating a “nexus to a potential hate crime” posted on 8chan an extremist online message board where racist and white supremacist options are aired.
They said they are “reasonably confident” that the hate-filled manifesto was posted by the suspect arrested after the mass-shooting at the Walmart store, which would make it the third mass shooting announced in advance on 8chan in less than five months.
Detectives sought to determine if it was written by the alleged terrorist.
The border city has figured prominently in the immigration debate and is home to 680,000 people, most of them Latino.
Using a rifle, the El Paso gunman opened fire in an area packed with as many as 3,000 people during the busy back-to-school shopping season.
More than two dozen people were wounded, some with life-threatening injuries, police said.
Federal officials were treating the attack as a domestic terrorism case, according to the US attorney.
Despite initial reports of possible multiple gunmen, the man in custody was believed to be the only shooter, police said.
Crusius is from Allen, which is a nearly 10-hour drive from El Paso.
There was no immediate indication he had an attorney.
El Paso police chief Greg Allen said the suspect was cooperative and “forthcoming with information”.
“He basically didn’t hold anything back,” he said. “Particular questions were asked and he responded in the way that needed to be answered.”
Texas Gun Laws
Police did not know where the weapon was purchased. Allen acknowledged that it is legal under Texas law to carry a long gun openly in a public place.
“Of course, normal individuals seeing that type of weapon might be alarmed but technically he was within the realm of the law,” Mr Allen said.
Police say more than two dozen people were wounded in the attack at a shopping area about five miles from the main border checkpoint with Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
Many of the victims were shot at a Walmart.
“The scene was a horrific one,” Mr Allen said, adding many of the 26 people who were hurt had life-threatening injuries.
Adriana Quezada said she was in the women’s clothing section of the Walmart with her two children when she heard gunfire.
“But I thought they were hits, like roof construction,” Ms Quezada, 39, said of the shots.
Her 19-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son threw themselves to the ground, then ran out of the store through an emergency exit. They were not hurt.
Mother shot dead shielding her toddler
A 25-year-old woman who was shot while shielding her two-month-old son was among the 20 people killed when a gunman opened fire in a crowded El Paso shopping centre, her sister has said.
Leta Jamrowski, 19, of El Paso, learned on Saturday afternoon that her sister Jordan Anchondo had been shot to death at Walmart while shopping for back-to-school supplies earlier in the day.
Ms Jamrowski spoke as she paced a waiting room at the University Medical Centre of El Paso, where her two-month-old nephew was being treated for broken bones as the result of his mother’s fall.
“From the baby’s injuries, they said that more than likely my sister was trying to shield him,” she said.
“So when she got shot she was holding him and she fell on him so that’s why he broke some of his bones. So he pretty much lived because she gave her life.”
Ms Anchondo was the mother of three children.
Ms Jamrowski spent the night desperately awaiting word of whether her brother-in-law, Andre Anchondo, had survived the attack that also wounded more than two dozen.
“They said that if he were alive, more than likely he would have gotten in contact by now,” Ms Jamrowski said.
In the hospital lobby, Mexican consular officials tracked the wounded and missing.
El Paso, which has about 680,000 residents, sits across the border from Ciudad Juarez in Chihuahua, Mexico.
Mexico President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said three Mexicans were killed in the shooting.
He tweeted on Saturday that he sends “condolences to the families of the victims, both American and Mexican”.
Ryan Mielke, a spokesman for University Medical Centre of El Paso, said 13 people were brought to the hospital with injuries, including one who died.
Two of the injured were children who were being transferred to El Paso Children’s Hospital, he said.
A total of 11 other victims were being treated at Del Sol Medical Centre, hospital spokesman Victor Guerrero said, ranging in age from 35 to 82.
Officials said three Mexican nationals were among the dead and six more were wounded.
Authorities were searching for any links between the suspect and the material in the document that was posted online shortly before the shooting, including the writer’s expression of concern that an influx of Hispanics into the United States will replace ageing white voters.
Twitter Praise For Trump’s Wall
That could potentially turn Texas blue in elections and swing the White House to Democrats.
“It’s beginning to look more solidly that is the case,” the police chief said.
The writer was also critical of Republicans for what he described as close ties to corporations and degradation of the environment.
Though a Twitter account that appears to belong to Crusius included pro-Trump posts praising the plan to build more border wall, the writer of the online document said his views on race predated Mr Trump’s campaign and that any attempt to blame the president for his actions was “fake news.”
The writer denied he was a white supremacist but the document says “race mixing” is destroying the nation and recommends dividing the US into territorial enclaves determined by race.
The first sentence of the four-page document expresses support for the man accused of killing 51 people at two New Zealand mosques in March after posting his own screed with a conspiracy theory about nonwhite migrants replacing whites.
In the hours after the shooting, authorities blocked streets near a home in Allen associated with the suspect.
Officers appeared to speak briefly with a woman who answered the door of the grey stone house and later entered the residence.
US President Donald Trump ordered flags flown at half-mast in memory of the victims of the shootings in Texas and Ohio.
He has been out of the public eye but he tweeted about the attacks.
The shooting was the 21st mass killing in the US in 2019 and the fifth public mass shooting.
Before Saturday, 96 people had died in mass killings in 2019 – 26 of them in public.
Mr Trump tweeted to offer prayers for those affected and confirm flags would be flown at half-mast until August 8.
He tweeted: “Today, I authorised the lowering of the flags to half-staff at all Federal Government buildings in honour of the victims of the tragedies in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio…..
“The flags at the White House will be lowered today through Thursday, August 8. Melania and I are praying for all those impacted by this unspeakable act of evil!”
How many mass shootings have there been this year?
Just days before, on July 28, a 19-year-old shot and killed three people, including two children, at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in northern California.
The El Paso shooting was the 21st mass killing in the US in 2019, according to the AP/USA Today/Northeastern University mass murder database.
It tracks all US homicides since 2006 involving four or more people killed – not including the offender – over a short period of time regardless of weapon, location, victim-offender relationship or motive.
That makes Sunday’s shooting in Dayton hours later, claiming nine lives the 22nd mass killing in the US this year.
The first 20 mass killings in the US in 2019 claimed 96 lives.
Calls for gun safety legislation
Interviewed outside the hospital in El Paso where many of Saturday’s victims were taken local legislator and would be Democrat Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke said the victims he had spoken to asked for action to stop such gun crime.
“Yes, it’s the gun laws. Yes, it’s the universal background checks. And yes, we should stop selling weapons of war into our communities. But I think we also have to confront this hatred that I have never seen in my lifetime,” said O’Rourke.
O’Rourke said: “We have to find some reason for optimism and hope or else we consign ourselves to a future where nearly 40,000 people a year will lose their lives to gun violence and I cannot accept that.”
Bernie Sanders, who was with O’Rourke and other Democrat Presidential candidates at a union meeting in Las Vegas on Saturday, said: “It’s not just today, it has happened several times this week. It’s happened here in Las Vegas where some lunatic killed some 50 odd people.”
“All over the world, people are looking at the United States and wondering what is going on? What is the mental health situation in America, where time after time, after time, after time, we’re seeing indescribable horror.”
The Vermont Senator slammed Republicans for continuing to back the wealthy gun lobby rather than “listening to the vast majority of the American people” over gun safety legislation.
Others joined the calls for legislation to make checks on guns safer not to be blocked any more.
These are the deadliest mass shootings of the past two years
– May 31 2019: Longtime city worker DeWayne Craddock opened fire in a building that houses Virginia Beach government offices. He killed 12 people and wounded several others before he was gunned down by police.
– February 15 2019: Gary Martin killed five co-workers at a manufacturing plant in Aurora, Illinois, during a disciplinary meeting where he was fired. He wounded one other employee and five of the first police officers to arrive at the suburban Chicago plant before he was killed during a shootout with police.
– November 7 2018: Ian David Long killed 12 people at a country music bar in Thousand Oaks, California, before taking his own life. Long was a Marine combat veteran of the war in Afghanistan.
– October 27 2018: Robert Bowers is accused of opening fire at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, during Shabbat morning services, killing 11 and injuring others. It was the deadliest attack on Jews in the US in history.
– June 28 2018: Jarrod Ramos shot through the windows of the Capital Gazette offices in Annapolis, Maryland, before turning the weapon on employees there, killing five at The Capital newspaper. Authorities say Ramos had sent threatening letters to the newspaper prior to the attack.
– May 18 2018: Dimitrios Pagourtzis began shooting during an art class at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas. The 17-year-old killed eight students and two teachers and 13 others were wounded. Explosives were found at the school and off campus.
– February 14 2018: Nikolas Cruz shot and killed 17 students and staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. It surpassed Columbine High School as the deadliest shooting at a high school in US history.
– November 5 2017: Devin Patrick Kelley, who had been discharged from the air force after a conviction for domestic violence, used an AR-style firearm in a shooting at a small church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, killing more than two dozen.
– October 1 2017: Stephen Paddock opened fire on an outdoor music festival on the Las Vegas Strip from the 32nd floor of a hotel-casino, killing 58 people and wounding more than 500. Swat teams with explosives then stormed his room and found he had killed himself.