Just a few blocks away from the Stanton Street Bridge — a connector between El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez in Mexico — a community came together Monday for a vigil that celebrated its culture, days after being brutally targeted by a white supremacist.
Two Aztec dance groups performed prayers for the victims of the weekend shooting at a Walmart that left 22 people dead and another 24 injured. It was one of a handful of gatherings organized to honor the lives lost and to help the community heal.
The Monday night remembrance was a powerful and defiant display of the region’s culture, following a massacre that left the Texas Hispanic community feeling shaken and targeted.
Women and men in vibrant-colored clothing and headdresses performed traditional Aztec dances in a park. Residents were drawn out from surrounding neighborhoods to the beat of loud drums and soon followed a quiet procession that led to a historic building feet away from the connector bridge.
“We’ve been tormented as a people,” said Gisela Sarellano, who performed a prayer with Omecoatl and another Aztec dance group, Tlaneztica. “I like the idea of using our culture — that they’re so threatened by — to combat that, to fight their hatred with beauty.”
The suspect, 21-year-old Patrick Crusius, wanted to stop a “Hispanic invasion of Texas,” according to a document police believe he wrote.
Suspect’s gun was legally purchased
The suspect’s weapon was purchased legally near his hometown in Allen, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen said, describing the gun as a “7.62-caliber weapon”.
The suspected shooter, who court documents state has been unemployed for five months, has been cooperating with authorities since his arrest and “volunteered most of the evidence,” Allen said.
The man took about 11 hours to drive from his Allen home to the El Paso Walmart, Allen said.
Crusius had no apparent ties to El Paso County, where 83% of residents are Hispanic or Latino, according to the US Census Bureau.
Once he arrived in the neighborhood, the suspect “found the Walmart because he was hungry,” Allen said.
After walking into Walmart and spraying the center with bullets, the suspect waited for law enforcement officers in his vehicle and approached them unarmed when they arrived. He was arrested without incident, El Paso Police Sgt. Robert Gomez said.
He had a “stone cold look” when he surrendered, one police official who came face-to-face with him told CNN.
“It was a look I’d never seen before, and I’ve been on this force for 31 years,” the official said. “I’ve seen murderers, robbers, nothing like this.”
Crusius has been charged with capital murder in the shooting and is being held without bond.
He is a white supremacist
Authorities said they’re investigating a racist, anti-immigrant document they believe the suspect posted about 20 minutes before the shooting.
The four-page document, titled “The Inconvenient Truth,” was published on the online messaging board 8chan and is filled with white supremacist language and racist hatred aimed at immigrants and Latinos. The author says he opposes “race mixing” and encourages immigrants to return to their home countries.
The 2,300-word “manifesto,” as police called it, was attached to a post that read: “I’m probably going to die today.”
Federal authorities said they’re treating the shooting as a case of domestic terrorism, US Attorney for the Western District of Texas John Bash said, as it “appears to be designed to intimidate a civilian population, to say the least.”
The Justice Department is also “seriously considering” bringing federal hate crime and federal firearm charges, which carry a possible death penalty, he said.
In the hate-filled document, the writer also says he held the beliefs he writes about before Donald Trump became president.
Trump on Monday morning said the manifesto was “consumed with racist hate.”
“In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy,” he said. “These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America. Hatred warps the mind, ravages the heart and devours the soul.”
Trump is set to visit El Paso on Wednesday, a plan that was met with backlash from the El Paso County Democratic Party, which in an open letter asked him to cancel his trip.
“Since the start of your Administration, El Paso has been ground zero for many of the cruel immigration-related policies enacted by you in your efforts to punish, demonize and terrorize immigrants and immigrant communities,” the letter, signed by El Paso County Democratic Party Chairwoman Iliana Holguin, read.
Youngest victim was 15-year-old boy
Police identified the 22 victims on Monday. At least one held dual Mexican and US citizenships, according to a relative. At least seven others were Mexican citizens; at least 13 were Americans; and one was German.
Among those killed were Jordan and Andre Anchondo who were shopping for school supplies in Walmart after dropping off their 5-year-old daughter at cheerleading practice.
The couple’s 2-month-old son survived after his mom shielded him from the gunfire.
“The baby still had her blood on him. You watch these things and see these things and you never think this is going to happen to your family,” Elizabeth Terry, Jordan Anchondo’s aunt, told CNN.
Angie Englisbee, 86, was also killed. Her son told CNN she had gotten off the phone with his brother minutes before the first reports of an active shooter.
A 60-year-old Army veteran and bus driver, Arturo Benavides, was also killed, his niece told CNN.
“He was an absolutely caring and strong-willed man,” Jacklin Luna said. “He was the person that would give any dime and shirt off his back, a meal and a home to anyone.”
Leo Campos and Maribel Hernandez were also among those killed, according to CNN affiliate KFOX/KDBC.
They had dropped off their dog at the groomer before heading to Walmart, Hernandez’s brother, Al Hernandez, told the affiliate. The family didn’t know anything was wrong until the groomer called them and said the dog hadn’t been picked up.
The Clint Independent School District confirmed a teen’s death on Monday — 15-year-old Javier Amir Rodriguez. Rodriguez was the youngest victim.
Dave Johnson was identified as one of the victims Monday, according to his daughter, Stephanie Melendez.
Margie Reckard, 67, was also identified as a victim, her husband, Antonio Basco, told CNN.
At least eight Mexican nationals lost their lives, Mexico’s Secretary of Foreign Affairs Marcelo Ebrard said.
Ebrard identified the first seven Sunday via Twitter as Sara Esther Regalado, Adolfo Cerros Hernández, Jorge Calvillo García, Elsa Mendoza de la Mora, Gloria Irma Márquez, María Eugenia Legarreta Rothe and Ivan Filberto Manzano. He identified the eighth victim Monday as Juan de Dios Velasquez Chairez.
Velasquez held both Mexican and US citizenships, according to his niece, Idaly Velasquez.
The other victims identified, according to a list from El Paso police, include: US citizens Maria and Raul Flores, both 77; German citizen Alexander Gerhard Hoffman, 66; US citizen Luis Alfonzo Juarez, 90; and Mexican national Teresa Sanchez, 82.
Mexico says El Paso shooting is an ‘act of terror’
Mexico considers the shooting an act of terrorism against Mexican citizens and will be participating in the investigation, Ebrard said Monday in a news conference.
The country is also considering a petition for the extradition of the gunman and is “analyzing actions regarding gun control,” Ebrard said.
“We consider this to be an act of terror, obviously on US territory, but against Mexican citizens,” he said. “We listened to President Trump’s statement earlier today and share his condemnation of racism and xenophobia as serious problems in the US.”
“We are different cultures but we need to live and respect each other, in Mexico and in the Unites States,” Ebrard said.