A mass shooting at a Walmart in the Texas border city of El Paso that has left 20 people dead and 26 injured is being investigated as a possible hate crime, Texas officials said.
A 21-year-old white man is in custody after the mass shooting, one of the deadliest incidents in Texas history, El Paso’s police chief said. Local news outlets reported the name of the suspected shooter, but his name has not yet been officially released by law enforcement.
He was named by the Associated Press and other media as Patrick Crusius, citing law enforcement sources.
A local TV station published what it said was a picture of the suspect from CCTV footage.
There was “little to minimum force” used when law enforcement took the suspect into custody, El Paso police spokesman Robert Gomez said at an earlier press conference. “No law enforcement personnel fired their weapon.”
“It happened without incident so I can assume that the person dropped his weapons,” Gomez added.
Law enforcement officials are investigating “a manifesto from this individual” that suggests the incident may be a hate crime, police chief Greg Allen said. He added that law enforcement still needed to “validate for certain” that the document under investigation was from the arrested suspect.
The chief did not immediately offer more details on the document under investigation.
Investigators are “reasonably confident” that the Walmart shooting suspect posted the document on 8chan, an extremist online message board that often features racist content, senior law enforcement officials told NBC News.
If the manifesto is authentic, it would make it the third mass shooting announced in advance on 8chan in less than five months.
In response to the document, 8chan commenters speculated whether the shooting would produce an impressive body count, mocked the shooter, and wrote “Hello FBI”.
“That’s it. This website is getting shutdown,” one 8chan commenter wrote.
Since mid-morning, commenters on 8chan had been circulating a document posted to the site that referenced Texas and a planned shooting attack motivated by white nationalist ideology.
The 8chan document under investigation by Texas law enforcement described a gun attack that was intended to be “a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas”.
Its author described a hatred of race-mixing, and suggested that the United States should be separated into different territories for different races. His opinions on immigration predated Donald Trump’s run for president, the author wrote.
El Paso is in western Texas, right on the border with Mexico. The diverse city has around 680,000 residents, and its population is around 80% Latino. More than 23,000 pedestrians cross from its Mexican twin city, Ciudad Juárez, across the border to El Paso to work every day.
The document includes expression of support for the Christchurch gunman, whose attack on peaceful worshippers in New Zealand left 51 people dead in March. The alleged Christchruch gunman also described immigrants of color as an “invasion”.
El Paso has been at the center of the crisis over the Trump administration’s punitive treatment of migrants and refugees from Central America. It is more than 600 miles away from Allen, the Dallas suburb where law enforcement said the suspect lived.
David Stout, El Paso county commissioner, told the Guardian he was concerned about reports that some victims or relatives might be afraid to go to reunification centers or seek medical attention due to their immigration status. He said he had not directly heard these accounts, but was worried people might be deterred since there were border patrol agents involved in the response.
“People who are dealing with this type of tragedy, if they happen to be undocumented or an immigrant, they should not have to feel any further strife or any further pain or any further fear,” he said.
Stout, who represents the district that includes the Walmart and spent the day at the hospital and school where people gathered, said it was “heartening and beautiful to see how in this community, we care for each other”.
He noted that there were massive lines of people donating blood, and that he witnessed many people offering rides and meals to victims’ families. “People just keep showing up to help.”
Still, he added, “This is the most difficult day that I’ve seen in El Paso.”
Globally, there have been at least 16 major violent attacks clearly linked to white supremacist ideology since 2011, not including last week’s attack on a garlic festival in Gilroy, California, which law enforcement officials are still investigating. After that shooting, media reports highlighted an Instagram post from an account with the same name as the alleged shooter, which referenced a late-19th century white supremacist text and described mixed-race people in derogatory terms.
Suspects in two previous white supremacist shootings, the Christchurch shooting, and an April shooting targeting synagogue in Poway, California, that left one person dead and three injured, both posted documents on 8chan before the attacks.
Posts linked to the suspect in a November mass shooting attack on a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which left 11 Jewish worshippers dead, also referred to immigrants and refugees as “invaders.” Those posts were made on Gab, a different extremist social network.
Early reports suggested the gun used in the shooting was a rifle, but police could not immediately confirm the make or model of the weapon, police officials said. The police chief said only one weapon had been identified.