Aug. 3 (UPI) — At least 21 people were shot, several of them fatally, and one suspect was arrested at a Walmart Supercenter in El Paso, Texas, Saturday afternoon, authorities said.
Police spokesman Sgt. Robert Gomez said one male suspect is in custody. Initial reports were that the gunman used a rifle but that hasn’t been confirmed, Gomez said.
“At this time we have ruled out multiple shooters,” Gomez said.
Multiple victims have been taken to different hospitals, a University Medical Center of El Paso, hospital spokesman Ryan Mielke said. UMC received at least 10 victims with “level one” injuries, which is the most serious level. Another 11 victims were taken to Del Sol Medical Center, spokesman Victor Guerrero said.
There is no imminent threat at this time but people should avoid the area, police tweeted. Police have set up a reunification center to find loved ones at MacArthur Elementary-Intermediate School.
Mayor Dee Margo told KTSM that there have been multiple confirmed fatalities. He said they are working with the FBI and utilizing all resources available to us.
“It’s an absolute tragedy,” Margo said. “The scene is contained as it stands now. There is no danger at this moment.”
No information on the number of victims injured or killed was provided.
The incident happened about 10 a.m. local time (12 EDT). By 1:45 p.m., police turned the area into a crime scene and it was still secure.
“We searching multiple scenes, but primarily the Walmart,” said Sgt. Enrique Carrillo said. “There is no imminent threat. There is no active shooter currently.”
KTSM reported that eyewitnesses saw shooters inside the Walmart Supercenter with their weapons.
Police were seen searching a late-model car near the scene. The trunk and doors were open but no one was inside.
The Walmart Supercenter shares a parking lot with Cielo Vista Mall.
Landry’s Seafood, Hooters and Red Lobster were on lockdown, CNN reported.
“We never thought it would be so close to us this time,” Landry’s restaurant manager Oscar told CNN. “You see on the news all the time, but you don’t think it could happen here until it does.”
He said three Walmart employees took refuge at a nearby Landry’s Seafood house.
Margo said El Paso routinely makes the news because it’s a border town dealing with an influx of Central American migrants but this shooting is different. El Paso, with a population of 840,758, is about 83 percent Hispanic, the according to a U.S. Census report in 208.
Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, an El Paso native, reacted on Twitter.
“Truly heartbreaking. Stay safe, El Paso,” O’Rourke tweeted. “Please follow all directions of emergency personnel as we continue to get more updates.”
He also reacted to the incident in a speech in Las Vegas.
“We are thinking about you and we want to make this better going forward,” O’Rourke said before departing for El Paso. “Ask for everyone’s strength for El Paso now.”
Gov. Greg Abbott released a statement on the shooting, saying the Department of Public Safety and Texas Rangers will assist El Paso officers with the investigation.
“Today, the El Paso community was struck by a heinous and senseless act of violence,” Abbott said. “Our hearts go out to the victims of the horrific shooting and to the entire community in this time of loss. While no words can provide the solace needed for those impacted by this event, I ask that all Texans join Cecilia and me in offering our prayers for the victims and their families.”
“The state of Texas will do everything it can to ensure justice is delivered to the perpetrators of this heinous act,” Abbott said in a statement.
President Donald Trump tweeted: “Terrible shootings in ElPaso, 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!”