People grieving in El Paso, Texas, where 20 people were gunned down at a Walmart store. (Reuters)
EL PASO, Texas – United States authorities investigating what drove a young man 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 Governor 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.
The FBI said in a statement on Sunday the attack “underscores the continued threat posed by domestic violent extremists and perpetrators of hate crimes”.
The bureau said it remains concerned that more U.S.-based extremists could become inspired by these and previous high-profile attacks to engage in similar acts of violence.
“The FBI asks the American public to report to law enforcement any suspicious activity that is observed either in person or online,” the bureau said.
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.”
The shooting happened just six days after the last major outbreak of U.S. gun violence in a public place – a food festival in California where a teenager killed three people with an assault rifle and wounded a dozen others before taking his own life in a hail of police gunfire.
The Texas killings were followed just 13 hours later by another mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, where a gunman in body armour and a mask 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.
The shootings reverberated across the political arena on Sunday as Democratic presidential candidates called for stricter gun laws and accused President Donald Trump of stoking racial tensions.
Trump told reporters he would make a statement on Monday morning about the shootings. (Reuters)