EL PASO, Texas (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump is expected on Wednesday to visit El Paso, a heavily Hispanic Texas border city reeling after a shooting rampage in a crowded Walmart left 22 people dead in an attack that appeared to have been racially motivated.
A young girl looks at a growing memorial three days after a mass shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, U.S. August 6, 2019. REUTERS/Callaghan O’Hare
Trump’s planned visit comes as Democrats are accusing him of stoking racial divisions with his strong anti-immigration rhetoric even after he said that Americans must “condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy.”
A crowd of several hundred classmates, teachers and relatives filled a high school football stadium in the El Paso suburb of Horizon on Monday evening for a memorial service honoring the youngest of the 22 people slain.
The rampage, along with a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, that left nine people dead 13 hours later, has also touched off a new furor over gun violence in the United States. Trump, who also plans to visit Dayton, proposed tighter monitoring of the internet, mental health reform and wider use of the death penalty following the incidents.
As of Tuesday morning, Patrick Crusius, 21, faces a single count of capital murder after authorities say he opened fire with a rifle on Walmart shoppers, many of them bargain hunting for back-to-school supplies, then surrendered to officers who confronted him outside the store. A Texas prosecutor said the state will seek the death penalty against Crusius if he is convicted.
Crusius made an initial court appearance early Sunday, and San Antonio attorney Mark Stevens has been appointed to the case by the court, online court records showed.
Calls to the El Paso court, state prosecutors and the defense attorney were not immediately returned.
Authorities have cited a lengthy anti-immigrant manifesto, apparently posted online by the suspect before the Saturday morning shooting in the heavily Hispanic border city, which they said was evidence the bloodshed was racially motivated.
Eight of those killed in the attack were Mexican citizens, according to the Mexican government.
The four-page statement uploaded to 8chan, a largely unmoderated online message board often used by extremists, called the Walmart attack “a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
It also expressed support for a gunman who killed 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said Saturday’s rampage appeared to be a hate crime and federal prosecutors called it domestic terrorism.
The Texas rampage was followed just 13 hours later by the mass shooting in Ohio and came a week after a man shot dead three people at a California garlic festival before killing himself.
In Dayton, Ohio, a gunman in body armor and a mask killed nine people in less than a minute and wounded 27 others in the downtown historic district before he was shot dead by police.
Reporting by Julio-Cesar Chavez and Daniel Trotta in El Paso; additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; editing by Jonathan Oatis