Two mass shootings at crowded public places in Texas and Ohio have claimed at least 29 lives in less than 24 hours and left scores of people wounded, a shocking carnage even in a country accustomed to gun violence.
- 125 people had been killed in shootings in the US so far this year
- The El Paso shooting was being investigated as a possible hate crime
- The attacks came less than a week after a 19-year-old gunman killed three people
In the Texas border city of El Paso, a gunman opened fire on Saturday morning (local time) in a shopping area packed with thousands of people during the busy back-to-school season.
The attack killed 20 and wounded more than two dozen, many of them critically.
Hours later in Dayton, Ohio, a gunman wearing body armour and carrying extra magazines opened fire in a popular nightlife area, killing nine, including his sister, and injuring at least 26 people. The suspected shooter was shot to death by responding officers.
Authorities said the man’s 22-year-old sister Megan was the youngest of the deceased victims. The others were adults ranging in age from 25 to 57.
The attacks came less than a week after a 19-year-old gunman killed three people and injured 13 others at the popular Gilroy Garlic Festival in California before dying of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The El Paso shooting was being investigated as a possible hate crime as authorities worked to confirm whether a racist, anti-immigrant screed posted online shortly beforehand was written by the man arrested.
Federal authorities said it would be handled as a domestic terrorism case and charges could carry the death penalty.
A local prosecutor announced that he would bring capital murder charges against the suspect, saying the assailant “lost the right to be among us”.
Despite initial reports of possible multiple gunmen, the man in custody was believed to be the only shooter, police said.
The border city is home to 680,000 people, many of them Latino.
El Paso authorities offered few details about the assault, but Police Chief Greg Allen described the scene as “horrific” and said many of the 26 people who were hurt had life-threatening injuries.
Swift police response saved lives
In Dayton, officers patrolling the area responded in less than a minute to the shooting. (AP: John Minchillo)
In Dayton, the bloodshed was likely limited by the swift police response.
Officers patrolling the area responded in less than a minute to the shooting, which unfolded around 1:00am on the streets of the downtown Oregon District, Mayor Nan Whaley said.
Had police not responded so quickly, “hundreds of people in the Oregon District could be dead today,” Mr Whaley said.
Authorities said the 24-year-old was killed by police less than a minute after he started shooting a .223-calibre rifle into the busy street.
US President Donald Trump sent condolences to both cities via Twitter saying law enforcement had been “very rapid in both instances”.
The FBI, local and state law enforcement are working together in El Paso and in Dayton, Ohio. Information is rapidly being accumulated in Dayton. Much has already be learned in El Paso. Law enforcement was very rapid in both instances. Updates will be given throughout the day!
In an earlier tweet he said the shooting in Texas “was not only tragic, it was an act of cowardice”.
Two law enforcement officials who spoke on condition of anonymity identified the El Paso suspect as 21-year-old Patrick Crusius from Allen, which is a nearly 10-hour drive from El Paso.
El Paso Mayor Dee Margo said he knew the shooter was not from his city.
“It’s not what we’re about,” the mayor said at the news conference with Governor Greg Abbott and the police chief.
The shootings were the 21st and 22nd mass killings of 2019 in the US, according to a mass murder database that tracks homicides where four or more people are killed — not including the offender.
Including the two latest attacks, 125 people had been killed in shootings in the US so far this year.