Ivan Pierre Aguirre for The Texas Tribune
EL PASO — Police have one person in custody after a mass shooting at a Walmart near Cielo Vista Mall in this city on the Texas-Mexico border.
Media reports indicate that between 18 and 22 people have died in the shooting at the Walmart just off Interstate 10 on the city’s east side, but police have not given any details about the number of casualties. State Rep. Cesar Blanco (D-El Paso) told CNN that more than 19 people were shot.
Sgt. Enrique Carrillo of the El Paso Police Department said there were multiple fatalities and multiple injuries. Carrillo did not give additional information, but he said there’s no imminent threat at the scene. He added that law enforcement is still searching the perimeter and advised people to stay away from the area.
Sgt. Robert Gomez, also with the El Paso Police Department, said police don’t believe there were other shooters beyond the person they have in custody – but he said police are still investigating and the situation is fluid.
Gomez said 911 calls about the shooting began coming in at 10 a.m. local time. Law enforcement soon sealed off the area around the Walmart. FBI SWAT teams could be seen near armored vehicles, along with Texas Department of Safety troopers, as a military-style helicopter circled overhead.
Victoria Hankins, a 38-year-old El Paso native, said she was in the grocery area near the rear of the store when she heard seven or eight shots in rapid succession. She said everyone hit the floor and started crawling away from the shots. Hankins said someone told them to hide in the back of the store, and a number of people crowded into a metal shipping container, which was stifling in the heat. She said people in the store helped each other find places to hide.
When they emerged after the shooting was over, Hankins said she saw a woman emerge from the store with blood on her legs, saying she was looking for her children.
“I’m not surprised by everyone taking care of each other inside,” Hankins said, adding that she also wasn’t surprised that someone would start shooting inside the Walmart. “It can happen anywhere nowadays. It’s crazy.”
Police have set up a reunification center at MacArthur Elementary-Intermediate School to help families locate their loved ones, Carrillo said.
One Walmart employee, leaving the scene with two fellow employees, said they were told to take shelter before being evacuated from the store. The man, who declined to give his name, said he didn’t witness the shooting but was told by others who did that “it’s bad.”
Another man, who would only give his first name, Raul, said he was inside the Walmart and heard several rapid-fire shots. He said he was instructed to get out of the store, then became stranded because his truck was inside the crime scene that police have cordoned off.
Police were seen searching a late-model car at an intersection near the scene, with the trunk and doors open. No one was inside.
Gov. Greg Abbott released a statement Saturday calling the shooting “a heinous and senseless act of violence.
“Our hearts go out to the victims of this horrific shooting and to the entire community in this time of loss. While no words can provide the solace needed for those impacted by this event, I ask that all Texans join Cecilia and me in offering our prayers for the victims and their families,” Abbott said, adding that state agencies and DPS are assisting El Paso police with the investigation.
“The state of Texas will do everything it can to ensure justice is delivered to the perpetrators of this heinous act,” Abbott said.
This is a breaking story and will be updated as more details are available.