Two Mass Shootings in El Paso and Dayton Claim Over 30 Lives In Less Than 24 Hours
Communities are calling for legislative action, particularly after it was revealed that one shooting was motivated by white supremacist ideology.
- By Haley Samsel
- Aug 06, 2019
Less than a week after three people were shot dead at a food festival in California, mass shootings took the lives of 31 people and injured several dozen more in two American cities, El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio.
The violence began on Saturday morning at an El Paso Walmart packed with back-to-school shoppers. The 21-year-old suspect, who lived in the Dallas suburb of Allen, made the 10-hour drive to the border city with the intentions of carrying out a domestic terrorist attack, according to a white supremacist memo posted online that has been attributed to him.
Within minutes, the suspect was able to shoot dozens, including two young parents shopping with their two-month-old child, killing 22 people that included several Mexican citizens.
Jaime Esparza, the El Paso County district attorney, said at a press conference on Sunday that his office would seek the death penalty, The Dallas Morning News reported.
“The loss of life is so great,” Esparza said. “We have certainly never seen this in our community. We pride ourselves on the fact that we’re so safe. Certainly, this community is rocked and shocked and saddened by what has happened here.”
In the manifesto, the suspect wrote of a “Hispanic invasion of Texas” and documented his fears that white people would be replaced by Latinos as part of a plot that would allow Democrats to win Texas and other states currently represented by Republicans, The New York Times reported. He also drew direct inspiration from the shooter in Christchurch, New Zealand, who claimed the lives of 51 people after he targeted a mosque during Friday prayer.
“What happened today is beyond comprehension,” El Paso County Sheriff Richard Wiles wrote in a statement on social media on Saturday. “This Anglo man came here to kill Hispanics. I'm outraged and you should be too. This entire nation should be outraged. In this day and age, with all the serious issues we face, we are still confronted with people who will kill another for the sole reason of the color of their skin.”
Less than 24 hours later, another community was torn apart by a mass shooting, this time at the Ned Peppers bar in an entertainment district in Dayton, Ohio. The shooter took nine lives in less than a minute of gunfire, including the life of his own sister, before he was killed by police who arrived on the scene within seconds.
The shooter’s motives are still unknown, The Washington Post reported. Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl said his department is still working to answer the question of “Why?”
“Had this individual made it through the doorway of Ned Peppers with that level of weaponry, there would have been catastrophic injury and loss of life,” Biehl said at a news conference. “So stopping him before he could get inside there—where you saw people were running in there for protection—was essential to minimizing to the degree we could casualties and deaths from this incident.”
The shootings elicited outpourings of grief and anger from Americans, including chants of “Do something!” from Ohioans gathered at a vigil for the Dayton victims on Sunday. Politicians called for legislative action to limit access to assault weapons and other measures to prevent more mass shootings, which have become a routine aspect of American life in recent years.
“We can have some common sense gun laws on the books,” Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said in an interview with PBS NewsHour. “I'd like the nine people who were fatally wounded and the 26 people that were shot in Oregon district so senselessly not to have their families lives changed for them to be gone, and for life to be different here in Dayton, Ohio because of this senseless act of violence.”
On Monday, President Donald Trump made a public statement condemning the motives of the El Paso shooter and calling for bipartisan action to strengthen background checks and pass “red-flag laws” that would help law enforcement identify mentally ill people who should not be able to legally purchase firearms.
“In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy,” Trump said in his televised remarks. “We must shine light on the dark recesses of the internet and stop mass murders before they start.”
He added: “Open wounds cannot heal if we are divided. We must seek real bipartisan solutions … that will truly make America safer and better for all.”
Democrats are urging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) to allow a vote on a background check bill passed by the House of Representatives, but most legislators believe that little to no action will be taken in Congress to address the issue.
Some companies are taking action to address hateful content posted to the online forum 8chan, where the El Paso shooter found his inspiration to carry out an attack and posted his hateful memo. The web company Cloudfare dropped the site from its client list on Sunday, taking the platform offline overnight, but the outage is likely to be temporary.