EL PASO, Texas — At least 15 people were killed in a shooting at an El Paso shopping center on Saturday, according to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
“That number keeps changing. I hate to pin down a certain number, but I think it was definitely a large number,” Paxton told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “At least what I’m hearing, the reports between 15 and 20 are probably accurate.”
The suspect in the shooting at an El Paso shopping center in which multiple people were killed is 21-year-old Patrick Crusius of Allen, Texas, three sources have told CNN.
Two federal law enforcement sources and one state government source confirmed the suspect’s identity. The federal sources said investigators are reviewing an online writing posted days before the shooting that may speak to a motive.
The online posting was believed to be written by Crusius, the sources said, but that has not been confirmed.
El Paso Police Sgt. Robert Gomez said in a news conference Saturday one person is in police custody. He is a white male in his 20s, Gomez said. He was arrested without incident.
Police began receiving reports of an active shooter around 10 a.m. (noon ET), Gomez said in a brief news conference at the scene. Authorities were initially given multiple possible locations for the shooting, Gomez said, at a Walmart and the Cielo Vista Mall next door.
Local officials, including El Paso Mayor Dee Margo and police spokesman Sgt. Enrique Carrillo, have said there were multiple fatalities in the shooting.
At least 23 people were injured, according to spokesmen for two local hospitals.
Thirteen people were taken to the University Medical Center of El Paso, spokesman Ryan Mielke told CNN, and one of them has died.
Eleven victims were transported to the Del Sol Medical Center, hospital spokesman Victor Guerrero said. Nine of them are in critical but stable condition, he said.
Del Sol Medical Center CEO David Shimp said of those in critical condition, “Those are life-threatening situations.”
“This is a large crime scene, a large area,” Gomez said of the crime scene. “So we are systematically going through it and making sure that anybody in the area — number one, we’re ruling out that no one is a suspect, and we’re also making sure that those people that were separated or hurt are getting the care that they need.”
A family reunification center has been set up at MacArthur Elementary School for families who might have been separated, Gomez said.
Multiple agencies, including the FBI and the local sheriff’s department, have responded to the scene to assist El Paso authorities.
“This was a massacre,” US Rep. Veronica Escobar, who represents the area, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. Escobar has received conflicting reports on the numbers of casualties, she said, but added, “The numbers are shocking.”
‘You don’t think it could happen here’
Walmart issued a statement regarding the shooting, saying, “We’re in shock over the tragic events at Cielo Vista Mall in El Paso. … We’re praying for the victims, the community & our associates, as well as the first responders.”
Inside the Cielo Vista Mall, crowds hid inside stores after hearing reports of an active shooter, according to 26-year-old Brandon Chavez, an employee at Forever 21.
Chavez had just started his shift when he saw customers and staff members running to the stock room to take shelter.
“There were about 20 children and adults, plus employees, hiding, all cramped like sardines,” he told CNN. “Most of us were desperate, some were on their phones. There were girls crying, people trying to talk to each other and women with babies in their arms.”
Store employees had closed the glass doors but he could see police officers walking around the mall and evacuating people from other stores.
After police officers knocked on the store’s doors, Chavez said his group had to leave the store, forming a line with their hands up and running.
In a shaky Snapchat video aired by CNN, a woman holding the camera frantically runs with a small group of girls or women through a Cielo Vista mall department store and into a parking lot.
As the group hurries past racks of clothes and cases of merchandise, voices off camera shout, “Hands up!”
Once in the parking lot, one member of the group asks, “What happened?”
“I don’t know,” the woman holding the camera responds. “I don’t know.”
Another video, shot from outside the Walmart, showed people lying on the ground, some of them next to a table set up by the store’s entrance.
“There’s a man lying down at the stand that a school set up,” the man holding the camera says in Spanish.
“Help!” a man screams in English.
“We need CPR,” someone else says. “We need CPR.”
Three Walmart employees took refuge at a nearby Landry’s Seafood house, restaurant manager Oscar Collazo told CNN. The women appeared “shook up” but not injured.
Landry’s had already gone on lockdown, he said, but opened its doors when the employees ran there.
“We never thought it would be so close to us this time,” Collazo said. “You see on the news all the time, but you don’t think it could happen here until it does.”
Employees at the nearby Hooters and Red Lobster told CNN they were safe and saw a lot of police, helicopters and people running around outside.
White House pledges ‘total support’
Blood donations are urgently needed, and authorities said if local residents want to help, they should make appointments to do so.
Frances Yepez, waiting in line at one blood donation center, said the center was at max capacity and dozens of people were waiting to make appointments for Sunday or Monday.
“It’s easy to make a dollar, but it’s harder to make a difference,” she said. “So I get out there and do whatever I can do to help.”
She said the mood there was somber, and she could hear sniffling as the crowd of people learned updates over the television.
President Donald Trump has been briefed on the shooting, and the White House is monitoring the situation, Deputy Press Secretary Steven Groves said in a statement.
“Terrible shootings in El Paso, Texas,” the President tweeted Saturday afternoon. “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!”
Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, who once represented the area in Congress, addressed the shooting while at a speaking event in Las Vegas.
“We know there is a lot of injury, a lot of suffering in El Paso right now,” he said. “I am incredibly sad and it is very hard to think about this.”
“But I’ll tell you, El Paso is the strongest place in the world,” he added. “This community is going to come together.”
O’Rourke said he would be cutting short his trip to Las Vegas to return to El Paso.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted that the state Department of Public Safety is assisting local law enforcement.
The scene is unfolding in the same week two employees were fatally shot at a Walmart store in Southaven, Mississippi, and three people were shot and killed at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California.