August 3, 2019: The El Paso Walmart Mass Shooting


WHAT HAPPENED?


On August 3, 2019, a 21-year-old named Patrick Crusius from Allen, Texas, went inside a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, shooting and killing 23 people, and injuring another 23. The FBI deemed it an act of domestic terrorism and a hate crime, as it was the deadliest attack on Latinos in modern U.S. history.


Crusius was arrested and charged shortly ever. Before the attack, he had posted a manifesto with white nationalist and anti-immigrant themes on an online forum. He cited the Chrischurch mosque shootings in New Zealand and the conspiracy theory, the Great Replacement, as his inspiration for the attack.

THE MASSACRE, AND THE VICTIMS


Near Cielo Vista Mall on the east side of El Paso sat a Walmart store. It was a Saturday, and residents were doing their normal weekend shopping. But their sense of normalcy wouldn't last long. Just before 10:40 AM, Crusius walked in with a semi-automatic rifle and opened fire.


The store's manager saw him firing in the parking lot before even entering the store and immediately issued a "Code Brown", which designated an active shooter situation. The employees began helping customers evacuate or hide. Customers and employees fled to other stores, or hid under tables or in shipping containers.


First responders were on the scene within 6 minutes of the first 911 call. The El Paso Police, Texas Rangers, FBI, and paramedics came to the scene.


The shooting was the deadliest anti-Latino attack on American soil in modern history.


The victims of the attack are as follows (2):


Jordan and Andre Anchondo had headed over to Walmart after dropping off their 5-year-old daughter at cheer practice. They brought their newborn son along with them, shopping for school supplies for their daughter. When the gunfire erupted, Jordan, 24, immediately shielded her infant, and Andre, 23, shielded his wife. Only the baby boy survived. The couple left behind him, their 5-year-old daughter, and another 2-year-old child. The couple had recently celebrated their first wedding anniversary.


63-year-old Dave Johnson was at the store with his wife, Kathy, and their 9-year-old granddaughter, whom they were shopping for. He was a loving husband and a doting grandfather, and it surprised no one that he pushed them down and took a bullet to protect them.


60-year-old Arturo Benavides was an Army veteran, a bus driver, and a lover of stories. He pushed his wife in the opposite direction, and she survived. They normally went to Walmart on Sundays after church, but had broken tradition.


86-year-old Angie Englisbee had called her son at 10:31 while in the check-out line at Walmart. The next day, they would find out she had died there. She had been widowed early on, and was a single mom working multiple jobs to support her family for a lot of her life. She was a mother of 7 and devout Catholic and sports fan.


Leonard Campos, 41, and Maribel Hernandez, 56, were both killed in the shooting. The married couple had just dropped their dog off at the groomer, who was alerted that something was wrong when they didn't come pick him up.


A couple, married for 60 years, had retired to El Paso after a life in Southern California. Raul Flores and Maria Flores, both 77, were at the store buying air mattresses for relatives who were coming to visit. Their oldest son says they didn't deserve to go the way they did, but he was comforted knowing they went together.


61-year-old Jorge Garcia, originally from Torreon, Mexico was in El Paso to visit his son and granddaughter. His granddaughter was raising money for her soccer team outside of Walmart, and Jorge died while shielding the young girls from the carnage.


Adolfo Hernandez and Sara Regalado, 68 and 66 respectively, were killed in the attack. Their daughter confirmed their death, thanking everyone for the prayers and messages. She said she hopes that wherever they are now, that they're as happy as they were on earth.


Alexander Hoffman, 66, was a German citizen. Additional details were not provided upon request from NPR for the sake of privacy.


Luis Juarez was the oldest victim of the attack at age 90. He and his wife of over 70 years were shopping for groceries. His wife was hospitalized, but survived. The family was heartbroken to hear the news - after all, you shouldn't make it to 90 years old and then die in a supermarket shooting.


Maria Legarreta Rothe, 58, was a well-known business woman from Mexico. She had traveled from her hometown to El Paso to pick up her youngest daughter from their airport, but stopped at Walmart on the way. Her daughter didn't know for hours why her mother hadn't arrived at the terminal.


57-year-old Elsa Marquez was a special education teacher in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, but had family in El Paso so often crossed the border to visit them. Her husband and son waited in the car while she quickly ran inside Walmart to grab something. Then, they heard the gunshots. Her husband said that she would "keep illuminating our walk for as long as life has so arranged".


Ivan Manzano, 46, had just paid for his items when he came across the shooter. He was a marathoner and a marketer, as well as a devoted husband and father, leaving behind 2 young children.


Gloria Marquez, 61, was a dedicated mother and grandmother. She was a cheerful person with a "big smile". She was a schoolteacher.


Margie Reckard, 63, had been married to her husband decades. They planned to "live together and die together" according to her loving husband.


Javier Rodriguez, who went by Amir, was the youngest to die in the shooting at age 15. His uncle had been shot trying to protect his nephew from the shooter, and was hospitalized. He loved soccer and was loved by all.


82-year-old Teresa Sanchez de Freitas was visiting El Paso from Mexico when she was shot in the rampage.


77-year-old Juan Velazquez was killed while protecting his wife, who survived, from the bullets. They hadn't even entered the store when the gunman opened fire from the parking lot. They had just received their U.S. citizenship and had moved to El Paso 6 months prior.


The last victim to die was Guillermo Garcia, who was still being treated for his wounds when he died on April 26, 2020 after a 9-month fight. His wife was shot in the leg, but recovered. (3)


13 of the victims were taken to the University Medical Center of El Paso, and another 11 to the Del Sol Medical Center to be treated for their injuries, primarily non-fatal gunshot wounds. The patients were between 35 and 82 years old. 2 victims, ages 2 and 9, were taken to the El Paso Children's Hospital.

THE KILLER


Patrick Crusius had driven to an intersection after the shooting and identified himself, surrendering to nearby Texas Rangers.


He had been born on July 27, 1998. His last known address was with his family in Allen Texas, 650 miles away from El Paso. He had graduated from Plano Senior High School in 2017 and enrolled in Collin College from 2017 until the spring of 2019. The gun he used was purchased legally. He told police he had targeted Mexicans.


The police were reasonable confident that The Inconvenient Truth, a manifesto posted on 8chan before the shooting, was written by him. It identified the attack in extreme detail, including the weapon. The post was removed by site moderators, but users continued to share copies.


The manifesto claimed he was inspired by the New Zealand shooting earlier that year that had taken the lives of 51. He expressed support for the shooter. He also felt that a "Hispanic invasion" and "cultural and ethnic replacement" was happening, which lead him to commit the act.


The manifesto focused heavily on a classic white nationalist conspiracy, The Great Replacement, which sees immigrants as an "invasion", which, notably, aligns to our president's language patterns.


The manifesto further claimed that the upcoming Democrat rule of the United States would be in part due to the increasing Hispanic population, an had gained some traction on the right-wing radio shows that he listed to often. He criticized both political sides for "importing foreign workers". Essentially, he hated Hispanics and blamed them for the problems in the United States. He also expressed concerns about automation effecting employment.


He was charged with both state and federal charges. On July 23, 2020, he entered a not-guilty plea. The defense cited some mitigating factors, describing severe mental disabilities, saying he was in a psychotic state when arrested. No trial date is set, but as of today, he has not been convicted and is being held awaiting trial.

AFTERMATH


Funeral homes in El Paso and Ciudad Juarez provided free funeral services to the families burying their loved ones. Some families held public funerals, where hundreds of mourners attended.


A Walmart corporate employee encouraged team members to stage a "sick out" to force the corporation to stop selling guns, however, Walmart issued a statement that hey would not be altering their gun policies. However, on September 3, 2019, they did stop selling ammunition for handguns and some assault weapons.


Donald Trump condemned the shooting as "hateful and cowardly". He ordered flags to be half-staff, but of course, did nothing actually actionable to prevent such things from happening again. #WhiteSupremacistInChief began trending, as people noted the commonalities between the language in the Great Replacement ("invasion", "go back to their home"). Trump's rhetoric was condemned by many democrats, while republicans blamed violent video games and said that gun control wouldn't work.


The Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador extended his condolences to all of the victims, and criticized the weapons-availability in the United States. The UN Secretary General condemned the terrorist attack, as did Pope Francis.


Uruguay and Venezuela issued travel warnings to certain cities in the United States, citing racism and discrimination and acts of violence. They warned their citizens to avoid large crowds if in the United States. Japan issued a warning, as well, calling the U.S. a "gun society". Trump, of course, threatened retaliation against countries who were issuing travel warnings.


Here's the thing: the Great Replacement, and anti-immigrant rhetoric, is not a new Trump era thing. The conspiracy had been around long before Trump, and many alt-right, white supremacist, tin-foil hat conspiracy theorists believed in it. However, that was a pretty small percentage of people. But when the President of the United States of America touts the same type of message, follows the same type of rhetoric, it goes from a super out-there belief of some insane conspiracy theorists to a mainstream Republican belief. Immigrants "invading" the U.S., or people telling immigrants (or, U.S. citizens who "look" like they aren't "from here") is extremely common. Donald Trump may not be responsible for developing such hateful rhetoric, but he is certainly to blame for bringing it into the mainstream.


Because when you treat a president like a cult leader, the people who don't follow him are wrong. Even though it's gross and perhaps not what people used to believe, as soon as one person says "hey, immigrants are invading and replacing us, they need to go back to where they came from!", no one is going to think they're crazy. That's what their leader is saying, too.


This is not to solely blame Trump for this attack. The blame rests solely and squarely on the shoulders of Patrick Crusius. He was not forced to subscribe to these beliefs. Millions of people hear right-wing radio shows every day, or read Trump's tweets, and don't formulate a plan to murder as many people as possible. But, as always, while the blame rests on the shoulders of the shooter, it would have been a lot harder to carry out if he wasn't able to legally and easily purchase a military-grade weapon. As one of my favorite Onion articles says, "There is no way to stop this, says the only country where this routinely happens".


I remember this shooting extremely well. After all, it was only 1 year ago. Specifically, I remember reading the stories of those who were killed, and focusing on the couple who was at the store to buy air mattresses for their relatives visiting. I don't know why, but that has stuck with me this entire year. Perhaps because it just speaks to the fact that nobody else's life mattered to this asshole. He saw them as Mexicans, invading his country. Bad people with bad intentions. He didn't see them as parents going to buy air mattresses because their family was coming to visit. He didn't see them as moms and dads buying back-to-school materials for their children who would have their first day of school in a few weeks. He didn't see them as mothers and fathers and grandparents and aunts and uncles and children and friends. He saw them as an invasion that he needed to take care of. He didn't care that they were just people trying to make their relative's stay comfortable, trying to buy some new folders for their child, restocking on groceries for their family. He couldn't see past his hatred to see normal people.


I hate that my story on Saturday was a mass shooting from 54 years ago and my story today is a mass shooting from 1 year ago. They happen too frequently. You would hope that in 54 years, something would be done to mitigate this type of attack, but that hasn't been the case. In fact, they've become more frequent. Almost routine.


When I saw this story for today, I almost didn't remember it. It is sad when there are so many mass shootings that you can't remember them all. But re-reading it, I'm horrified all over again. It has only been 1 year. Children go back to school without their parents. Adult children don't get to introduce their babies to their grandparents. Wives pass the 1 year mark of being widowed by the man who died protecting her. I wish them every ounce of peace in the world, and I hope 2020 is the year that justice is served for the monster who took their loved ones from them.

REFERENCES:

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2019_El_Paso_shooting

2. https://www.npr.org/2019/08/06/748527564/stories-of-el-paso-shooting-victims-show-acts-of-self-sacrifice-amid-massacre

3. https://abcnews.go.com/Business/wireStory/el-paso-shooting-victim-dies-months-death-toll-70355103


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