At least 20 people were killed and 26 injured when a man opened fire in a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, on Saturday. The incident took place a few miles away from the US-Mexican border and is being investigated as a possible hate crime.
The gunman has been identified as Patrick Crusius, a 21-year-old white male who is a resident of Allen, according to BBC. The suspect surrendered soon after the rampage. The authorities are looking at potentially bringing capital murder charges.
"Right now, we have a manifesto from this individual that indicates to some degree a nexus to a potential hate crime," CNN quoted El Paso Police chief Greg Allen as saying.
Allen added that reports of an active shooter were received at 10.39 am local time (9.09 pm IST) and law enforcement officers were on the scene within six minutes.
According to Reuters, the officials are currently investigating a four-page statement which is believed to have been authored by the suspect. The statement was posted on 8chan, an online message board often used by extremists, and called the Walmart attack "a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas".
"Hispanics will take control of the local and state government of my beloved Texas, changing policy to better suit their needs," the manifesto said. It went on to add that "the heavy Hispanic population in Texas will make us a Democrat stronghold."
The statement also expressed support for the gunman who killed 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
The FBI has opened a domestic terrorism investigation into the incident. It will coincide with the state inquiry and Texas authorities will take the lead in the case, reported CNN.
More investigative work is required to determine if the incident was a hate crime, said FBI El Paso Special Agent in Charge Emmerson Buie.
Witnesses describe the incident
Many of the shoppers were buying back-to-school supplies when they were caught up in the rampage and fled for their lives.
Kianna Long, a shopper who was at the store with her husband, told Reuters, "People were panicking and running. They were running close to the floor, people were dropping on the floor."
Another witness, Glendon Oakly, told CNN that he was in a sporting goods store inside the nearby shopping mall when a child ran inside "telling us there's an active shooter at Walmart".
A video shot outside Walmart showed people lying on the ground, some of them next to a table set up by the store's entrance.
The incident has led to an outpour of sympathy and fresh calls for gun control.
According to local media, there was an overwhelming response to an appeal by the police department for blood donation to help the wounded. Long lines formed at medical centres and some of the donors had to be told to return on Sunday.
US President Donald Trump took to Twitter to pledge full support for the victims of the massacre. "Today's shooting in El Paso, Texas was not only tragic, it was an act of cowardice. I know that I stand with everyone in this Country to condemn today's hateful act. There are no reasons or excuses that will ever justify killing innocent people," wrote Trump.
However, Democrats who are competing with Trump in next year's presidential elections said it was past time to tackle an "epidemic" of gun violence.
Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren wrote on Twitter, "Gun violence happens at schools, at places of worship, at work, at malls, at movie theaters, at festivals, and at home. Gun violence can claim dozens of lives at once—and its daily toll claims dozens. We have a gun violence epidemic in this country. We need to act—now."
Democratic presidential candidate and an El Paso native Beto O'Rourke attacked Trump in an interview. "We've had a rise in hate crimes every single one of the last three years, during an administration where you have a president who has called Mexicans rapists and criminals," he said.
Walmart said in a statement, "We're in shock over the tragic events at Cielo Vista Mall... We're praying for the victims, the community & our associates, as well as the first responders."
Walmart CEO Doug McMillon also took to Instagram to condemn the attack. "I can't believe I'm sending a note like this twice in one week. My heart aches for the community in El Paso, especially for the associates and customers at store 2201 and the families of the victims of today's tragedy. I'm praying for them and I hope you will join me," he wrote.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott described the incident as "one of the most deadly days in the history of Texas". "Twenty innocent people from El Paso have lost their lives," he said.
"We as a state unite in support of these victims and their family members...We pray that God can be with those who have been harmed in any way and bind up their wounds," added the Governor.