(WXYZ) — Two mass shootings at crowded public places in Texas and Ohio 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.
In the Texas border city of El Paso, a gunman opened fire Saturday morning 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 armor and carrying extra magazines opened fire in a popular nightlife area, killing nine and injuring at least 26 people. The suspected shooter was shot to death by responding officers.
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. 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.
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 a.m. 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," Whaley said.
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 Gov. Greg Abbott and the police chief.
Authorities identified the El Paso suspect as 21-year-old Patrick Crusius from Allen, which is a nearly 10-hour drive from El Paso.
Democratic presidential candidate and former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke, who is from El Paso and was at a candidate forum Saturday in Las Vegas, appeared shaken after receiving news of the shooting in his hometown.
He said he heard early reports that the shooter might have had a military-style weapon, saying we need to "keep that (expletive) on the battlefield. Do not bring it into our communities."
The shootings were the 21st and 22nd mass killings of 2019 in the U.S., according to the AP/USA Today/Northeastern University mass murder database that tracks homicides where four or more people killed — not including the offender.
Including the two latest attacks, 125 people had been killed in the 2019 shootings.
The FBI released the following statement regarding the shootings:
The attack in El Paso, Texas, underscores the continued threat posed by domestic violent extremists and perpetrators of hate crimes. The FBI is supporting its state and local partners in Texas through investigative, intelligence, and technical assistance. The El Paso investigation is also being supported by the FBI’s Domestic Terrorism-Hate Crimes Fusion Cell, which was established in spring 2019. Composed of subject matter experts from both the Criminal Investigative and Counterterrorism Divisions, the fusion cell offers program coordination from FBIHeadquarters, helps ensure seamless information sharing across divisions, and augments investigative resources.
The FBI is also providing assistance to the Dayton (Ohio) Police Department’s investigation into the shooting in Dayton, through the Bureau’s Cincinnati Field Office, with support from FBIHeadquarters personnel.
“On behalf of the FBI, I offer sincere condolences to the victims, families, and communities affected by this weekend’s violence, and we stand by them during this difficult time. We will bring the full resources of the FBI to bear in the pursuit of justice for the victims of these crimes.” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “I am proud of our state and local law enforcement partners and the immediate response of FBI agents, analysts, and professional staff, working in close coordination to assist them. I have been in contact with the president and the attorney general, and they both have expressed their support for the FBI’s work in the wake of these tragedies.”
The FBI remains concerned that U.S.-based domestic violent extremists could become inspired by these and previous high-profile attacks to engage in similar acts of violence. The FBI asks the American public to report to law enforcement any suspicious activity that is observed either in person or online.