(EL PASO, TX) — As many as 18 people were killed and dozens more were injured, and one male suspect is in custody, after a mass shooting at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart on Saturday morning, officials said.
A spokesperson for El Paso Mayor Dee Margo confirmed to ABC News that there were “multiple fatalities” from the shooting.
El Paso Police Department Sgt. Robert Gomez said that “we have ruled out multiple shooters,” adding, “We have no information … about what the motive is.”
The shooting began in the parking lot outside the Walmart, an eyewitness told ABC News Radio, describing the shooter as dressed in cargo pants and wearing ear protectors.
The eyewitness, a shopper named Vanessa Saenz, said that she heard gunshots as she drove through the parking lot with her mother and at first saw a man who looked like he was dancing. Moments later, she said, she saw a woman a few feet away fall to the ground.
The eyewitness then 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.
She described the man as then walking with confidence into the store, “like he was on a mission.”
He went on, “At this second in time, we won’t rule out multiple [shooters] until we have all the facts based on the investigation. Initial reports did advise multiple suspects. At this time, we do have one person in custody. We don’t believe there’s anybody outstanding so …. we are starting to secure the scene.”
At 12:11 p.m. local time, the El Paso Police Department had issued a tweet that said in part, “We have multi reports of multiple shooters.”
Area residents were urged by local law enforcement to avoid the area north of the I-10 highway area in east El Paso.
Scene is still Active. We have multi reports of multiple shooters. Please avoid area police conducting search of a very large area. Media staging will be given when area is secure.
— EL PASO POLICE DEPT (@EPPOLICE) August 3, 2019
The Walmart is located at the Cielo Vista Mall, one of the city’s most popular malls, particularly among Mexican tourists who cross the U.S. border to shop there before returning to Mexico.
We’re in shock over the tragic events at Cielo Vista Mall in El Paso, where store 2201 & club 6502 are located. We’re praying for the victims, the community & our associates, as well as the first responders. We’re working closely with law enforcement & will update as appropriate.
— Walmart (@Walmart) August 3, 2019
Walmart issued a statement about the shooting on the retailer’s Twitter account.
“We’re in shock over the tragic events at Cielo Vista Mall in El Paso,” the statement said. “We’re praying for the victims, the community & our associates, as well as the first responders. We’re working closely with law enforcement & will update as appropriate.”
Mistey Garcia, 33, an employee at the Hooters restaurant in the Cielo Vista Mall, told ABC News in a telephone interview that “we’re all pretty nervous and scared. We’re kind of hoping and sending our prayers down to everyone at Walmart.”
In El Paso, the Texas Dept. of Public Safety is assisting local law enforcement & federal authorities to bring this tragedy to the swiftest & safest possible conclusion.
We thank all First Responders for their courageous response & urge all area residents to remain safe. https://t.co/H6UDwu81SY
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) August 3, 2019
Garcia said no one at Hooters had been briefed directly by law enforcement – as they’re locked in the restaurant – about whether the shooting is unfolding in or near Walmart, and no restaurant employee directly heard gunshots.
“So far everything’s blocked off, we are locked in,” she said. “We have police, border patrol, ambulances, fire trucks all coming down the road. There are ambulances everywhere.”
At 11:35 a.m local time, the Dallas office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) issued a tweet saying ATF agents were responding as well.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a tweet that the state’s Department of Public Safety was responding to assist “local law enforcement & federal authorities to bring this tragedy to the swiftest and safest possible conclusion.”
Rep. Veronica Escobar, who represents Texas’s 16th Congressional District, tweeted that she is “utterly heartbroken by the developing news in El Paso.”
President Donald Trump has been briefed on the shooting and is monitoring the situation, according to White House Deputy Press Secretary Steven Groves.
In a tweet, the president said he had spoken with Gov. Abbott and pledged “total support of Federal Government,” before ending the message ‘God be with you all!’
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 3, 2019
Democratic presidential candidate and fellow Texan Beto O’Rourke told reporters he was in communication with local officials and was flying back home from an event in Nevada.
“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. “But I’ll tell you, El Paso is the strongest place in the world.”
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