It took just 30 seconds in Ohio and zero bullets in Texas for officers to stop two mass shootings this weekend, but not before 31 people were killed and about 50 injured in less than 24 hours.
In the Texas border city of El Paso, a gunman opened fire Saturday morning in a shopping area packed with thousands of people during the busy back-to-school season. The attack killed 22 and wounded more than two dozen, many of them critically. Two of the victims died Monday at a hospital.
El Paso Investigated as Possible Hate Crime
Hours later in Dayton, Ohio, a gunman wearing body armor and carrying extra magazines opened fire in a popular nightlife area, killing nine and injuring at least 26 people.
The attacks came less than a week after a 19-year-old gunman killed three people and injured 13 others at the popular Gilroy Garlic Festival before dying of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
El Paso authorities offered few details about the assault, but Police Chief Greg Allen described the scene as “horrific” and said many of the 26 people who were hurt had life-threatening injuries.
In Dayton, the bloodshed was likely limited by the swift police response. Officers patrolling the area took just 30 seconds to stop the shooting, which unfolded around 1 a.m. on the streets of the downtown Oregon District, Mayor Nan Whaley said.
‘Hundreds … Could be Dead Today’
Video released by police shows 24-year-old Connor Betts being shot down by officers, just steps away from entering a bar filled with hiding patrons.
Had police not responded so quickly, “hundreds of people in the Oregon District could be dead today,” Whaley said.
Betts’ 22-year-old sister, Megan Betts, was among those killed in Dayton.
Police say the gunman was wearing a mask and body armor. He was armed with a .223-caliber rifle with magazines capable of holding at least 100 rounds of ammunition, said Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl.
What’s not known is whether Betts targeted any of the victims, including his sister. While the gunman was white and six of the nine killed were black, police said the quickness of the rampage made any discrimination in the shooting seem unlikely.
Any attempt to suggest a motive so early in the investigation would be irresponsible, the police chief said.
Had the gunman gotten inside the bar, the result would have been “catastrophic,” Biehl said.
El Paso Suspect Could Face Death Penalty
Authorities identified the El Paso suspect as 21-year-old Patrick Crusius from Allen, a Dallas suburb which is a nearly 10-hour drive from El Paso.
El Paso Mayor Dee Margo said he knew the shooter was not from his city.
“It’s not what we’re about,” the mayor said at a news conference with Gov. Greg Abbott and the police chief.
A local prosecutor announced that he would file capital murder charges, declaring that the alleged assailant had “lost the right to be among us.”
Investigators focused on whether the El Paso attack was a hate crime after the emergence of a racist, anti-immigrant screed posted online shortly beforehand. Detectives sought to determine if it was written by the man who was arrested.
The border city has figured prominently in the immigration debate and is home to 680,000 people, most of them Latino.
President Donald Trump tweeted Monday that Washington “must come together” in the wake of the shootings “to get strong background checks” for gun users. But he provided no details on what sort of legislation he would support.
Angry Response from Beto O’Rourke
The Democrat-led House has passed a gun control bill that includes fixes to the nation’s firearm background check system, but it has languished in the GOP-controlled Senate.
Trump suggested Monday that a background check bill could be paired with his long-sought effort to toughen the nation’s immigration system. He didn’t say how.
Democratic presidential candidate and former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke, who is from El Paso and was at a candidate forum Saturday in Las Vegas, appeared shaken after receiving news of the shooting in his hometown.
He said he heard early reports that the shooter might have had a military-style weapon, saying we need to “keep that (expletive) on the battlefield. Do not bring it into our communities.”
The shootings were the 21st and 22nd mass killings of 2019 in the U.S., according to the AP/USA Today/Northeastern University mass murder database that tracks homicides where four or more people killed — not including the offender.
Including the two latest attacks, 125 people had been killed in the 2019 shootings.