EL PASO, Texas — U.S. authorities investigating what drove a young gunman from the Dallas area to kill 20 people at a Walmart store hundreds of miles away in the border city of El Paso said on Sunday they are treating it as a case of domestic terrorism.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Saturday’s rampage appeared to be a hate crime, and police cited a manifesto they attributed to the suspect as evidence that the bloodshed was racially motivated.
A state prosecutor said they will seek the death penalty for the suspect, Patrick Crusius, 21, of Allen, Texas.
The U.S. attorney for the western district of Texas, John Bash, said federal authorities were treating the massacre as a case of domestic terrorism.
“And we’re going to do what we do to terrorists in this country, which is to deliver swift and certain justice,” Bash told reporters at a news conference on Sunday.
He said the attack appeared “to be designed to intimidate a civilian population, to say the least.”
Police said the suspect opened fire with a rifle on shoppers, many of them bargain-hunting for back-to-school supplies, then surrendered to officers who confronted him outside the store.
El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen said the suspect was cooperating with investigators.
“He basically didn’t hold anything back,” Allen said at Sunday’s news conference, but declined to elaborate.
The Texas killings were followed just 13 hours later by another mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, where a gunman in body armor killed nine people in less than a minute and wounded 27 others in the city’s downtown historic district before he was shot dead by police.
Crusius comes from Allen, Texas, a Dallas suburb some 650 miles east of El Paso, which lies along the Rio Grande across the U.S.-Mexico border from Ciudad Juarez.
A four-page statement posted on 8chan, an online message board often used by extremists, and believed to have been written by the suspect, called the Walmart attack “a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
Amid reports on social media that some undocumented victims of the shooting might have been reluctant to seek medical aid, U.S. Customs and Border Protection sought to put them at ease.
“We are not conducting enforcement operations at area hospitals, the family reunification center or shelters. We stand in support of our community,” CBP West Texas said on Twitter.