Texas police on Saturday said they had “multi reports” of multiple shooters in the Cielo Vista mall area on the outskirts of El Paso city.
At least two officials – the mayor’s chief of staff Olivia Zepeda and police spokesman Enrique Carrillo – told reporters that “multiple people were killed” in the shooting.
Carrillo later told reporters the attack had ended with a suspect taken into custody.
“We have between 15 and 20 casualties, we don’t know the number of fatalities,” Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick told Fox News network.
A University Medical Center of El Paso official later confirmed one of the 12 people received by the hospital has died.
Ryan Mielke, a hospital spokesman, also said two children, aged 2 and 9, were stabilised at the medical centre before being transferred to the neighbouring El Paso Children’s Hospital.
He added that all of the victims suffered traumatic injuries, but he did not elaborate.
Adair and I are devastated by the tragic events unfolding in our City. Our hearts go out to the victims and gratitude to our first responders. We will continue to keep you updated. pic.twitter.com/AKzgwtVWgs
— Mayor Dee Margo (@mayor_margo) August 3, 2019
The White House said President Donald Trump has been briefed on the shooting and has spoken to Attorney General William Barr and Governor Greg Abbott.
Trump later said on Twitter the shooting was “very bad”.
“Terrible shootings in El Paso, Texas. Reports are very bad, many killed. Working with State and Local authorities, and Law Enforcement. Spoke to Governor to pledge total support of Federal Government. God be with you all!” Trump said.
Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher, reporting from Washington, DC, said the El Paso mayor confirmed multiple fatalities.
“We are told that 18 people have been taken to hospital with injuries ranging from minor to critical. It’s thought the dead are among those 18,” he said.
A witness, who gave her name as Vanessa, said she had just pulled into the car park of the Walmart and “all of a sudden you heard what sounded like fireworks, really loud fireworks”.
“You could hear the pops, one right after another and at that point as I was turning, I saw a lady, seemed she was coming out of Walmart, headed to her car. She had her groceries in her cart and I saw her just fall,” she told Fox News.
The witness told Fox that she had seen one man open fire wearing what appeared to be combat fatigues.
“He was wearing a black T-shirt, camo coloured pants. He was wearing something to cover his ears, like headphones, really thick ones.
“He was carrying a dark rifle and he was just pointing at people and just shooting and, yeah, the last thing I saw, he shot somebody that was in a corner.”
After seeing the woman fall in the parking lot, “that’s when I thought, okay, this is not – these aren’t fireworks … He was just shooting randomly. It wasn’t to any particular person. It was any that would cross paths.”
KTSM, a local NBC affiliate, said 18 people had been shot [KTSM 9/KTSM 9 news Channel/AFP]
Presidential candidate and former US Representative Beto O’Rourke said he is distraught by the shooting in his hometown of El Paso.
An emotional O’Rourke told reporters in Las Vegas that he had spoken by phone to El Paso Mayor Dee Margo, the city’s sheriff and US Representative Veronica Escobar.
O’Rourke said he planned to return home immediately to be with his family. He asked “for everyone’s strength for El Paso right now. Everyone’s resolve to make sure that this does not continue to happen in this country”.
On his part, Mayor Margo expressed his sadness for the victims and gratitude to the first responders in his Twitter statement.
So did Escobar, saying she was “utterly heartbroken” by the news.
Utterly heartbroken by the developing news in El Paso. Monitoring the situation and in communication with our law enforcement. Please stay safe.
— Rep. Veronica Escobar (@RepEscobar) August 3, 2019
El Paso in West Texas, which has about 680,000 residents, sits across the border from Juarez, Mexico.
It has been a particularly bad week for gun violence in the US. Two people died and a police officer was wounded on Tuesday at a Walmart store in Mississippi.
Last Sunday, a 19-year-old gunman opened fire at a food festival in northern California, killing three, including two children.