Two days, three attacks, 18 dead: Texas reels from weekend of horror
The state of Texas — from the border with Mexico to the swanky suburbs north of Dallas — spent Monday reeling from unimaginable horror.
Traumatised shoppers were gathering in Allen to reclaim vehicles at the outlet mall where an active shooter on Saturday killed eight and injured seven. Officers in Brownsville were preparing to update the public after a driver plowed into a group of migrants waiting at a bus stop, again killing eight and injuring at least 10 on Sunday morning. And police in Dallas were holding a gunman who opened fire on a city light rail line on Sunday afternoon, killing one and injuring two.
Meanwhile on Monday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott was tweeting about the border.
“Up bright and early to provide a border security update ahead of the end of Title 42,” the Republican leader wrote, urging his followers to join him for a live update from the state capital of Austin.
“Border security update?” retorted Twitter user Faustina Marie, @theroyalruffian. “How do you plan to prevent Texans from being slaughtered by other Texans?”
Here, The Independent recaps a horror weekend of violence that left 18 dead and many more injured.
Allen Outlet Mall Shooting
Reports of the first mass tragedy of the weekend began on Saturday afternoon, as panicked social media posts and pictures emerged showing an active shooter at Allen Premium Outlets, about a half-hour north of Dallas. Around 3.30pm, an officer responding to a nearby call heard gunfire at the outdoor mall, responded, identified and killed the shooter, law enforcement said — but the gunman had already fatally wounded eight people and injured nine others.
Among the dead were security guard Christian LaCour, 20; engineer Aishwarya Thatikonda, whose 28th birthday was just days away; sisters Daniela and Sofia Mendoza, in fourth and second grade, respectively; and parents Cindy and Kyu Cho, along with their three-year-old, James.
As of Sunday morning, Allen authorities said three injured remained in critical condition in area hospitals and three were in fair, including one patient being treated at a children’s hospital.
Police on Sunday confirmed the identity of the suspect as Mauricio Garcia, 33, of Dallas. A law enforcement official told AP that multiple weapons had been found at the scene after Garcia was killed, including an AR-15-style rifle and a handgun. Investigators searched a Dallas motel near an interstate where Garcia had been staying, as well as a home connected to the suspect, the official said.
Federal agents reviewed social media accounts believed to have been used by the suspect expressing interest in white supremacist and neo-Nazi views; Garcia had a patch on his chest bearing the acronym for a popular right-wing extremist phrase, the official told AP.
Garcia also had a patch on his chest when he was killed by police that read “RWDS,” an acronym for the phrase “Right Wing Death Squad,” which is popular among right-wing extremists and white supremacy groups, the official said.
Dallas-area churches on Sunday night were holding services for victims as news of the tragedy spread. Within hours of its creation on Monday, a GoFundMe for the young Cho family had raised $380,000 more than its $50,000 goal.
The page says that the parent and three-year-old had visited the mall on Saturday along with older son, William, to celebrate his sixth birthday four days earlier.
“An afternoon that should have been filled with light, love and celebration unfortunately was cut short by another mass shooting massacre that left 8 victims dead,” the GoFundMe continued. “Cindy, Kyu and three year old James were among those victims that tragically lost their lives and the family is in deep mourning. After being released from the ICU, their six year old son William is the only surviving member of this horrific event.”
Another mother and her children were also caught up in the atrocity, Wylie Independent School District officials said in a letter to families, according to reporting by ABC affiliate WFAA.
The Mendoza sisters, who attended Cox Elementary in Sachse, Texas, were killed while shopping at the outlets with their mother, Ilda, who was critically wounded, Superintendent David Vinson wrote.
“Daniela and Sofia will not be forgotten,” he continued. “Hug your kids, and tell them you love them.”
The father of one Premium Outlets employee who rushed to the scene on Saturday described the horrifying site and called for change within his gun-loving state.
A veteran and former cop, Steven Spainhouer told MSNBC: “I’m a gun lover; I have guns. But these M4s, AR-15s, they’ve got to get off the streets or this is going to keep happening, and we’ve got to stop that at some point. Prayers an condolences won’t bring these people back. We need some action in our legislatures at the federal and state level for better gun control, and I’m saying that as someone who loves guns.”
President Joe Biden echoed those calls for action, also ordering flags lowered to half-staff.
“Yesterday, an assailant in tactical gear armed with an AR-15 style assault weapon gunned down innocent people in a shopping mall, andnot for the first time,” he tweeted Sunday. “Such an attack is too shocking to be so familiar. We need more action, faster to save lives.”
Brownsville Bus Stop Attack
Early Sunday morning, as Texans readied for church services praying for the souls of the mall victims, another tragedy struck the state — 570 miles south of the crime scene.
A grey SUV driven by a local 34-year-old crashed into a group waiting at a Brownsville bus stop just before 8.30am, killing eight and injuring ten more, police said. During a press conference on Monday, Chief Felix Sauceda said George Alvarez — who had an extensive rap sheet — had run a red light, flipped the vehicle and smashed into 18 people before attempting to flee the scene.
The bus stop was near a non-profit Ozanam facility that helps to house migrants — whose ranks have been swelling quickly in the run-up to immigration law changes taking effect on Thursday.
At least some of the victims were Venezuela natives, Chief Sauceda said, calling the Sunday event in the border city “a very tragic scene.” He said Alvarez had been charged with eight counts of manslaughter and ten counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
The chief also noted that investigators were still working to determine a motive and whether or not the deaths were intentional as well as awaiting the results of toxicology tests.
One Venezuelan migrant, who gave his name as Jesus, told local station KVEO that he’d been near the bus stop on Sunday at the time of the tragedy. He said he’d been at the Ozanam center for three days after traveling from his native country and his family had bought him a plane ticket to Utah.
“We were waiting there, and the truck sped through the traffic light, and by the grace of God nothing happened to us, but they did hit the others around us,” he told the station.
Brownsville police said on Monday that they had also not ruled out additional charges against Alvarez. The FBI was assisting in the investigation.
“I cannot describe the heartache I feel at hearing the news from this morning, not just as an advocate for the rights of migrants, but as a resident of Brownsville,” Rochelle Garza, president of the Texas Civil Rights Project, tweeted on Sunday. “My heart goes out to those who were impacted by this tragedy.”
Dallas DART Shooting
Eight hours after the Brownsville bus stop carnage, gunfire broke out in Dallas on a city light rail line, leaving one dead, two injured and a suspect temporarily on the run.
A disagreement between two people broke out aboard a northbound Green Line train around 4.30pm near the Hatcher station within the Dallas Area Rapid Transit system, spokesman Gordon Shattles told The Independent. A shooter subsequently fatally wounded one person and injured a bystander before taking off, police said.
A third victim was believed to have been struck by shrapnel and was treated at the scene, police told CNN. The shooting disrupted Green Line service for hours as passengers were routed via bus shuttle between various stations amidst police investigations.
Mr Shattles said Monday that DART police had “apprehended the suspect and recovered the weapon used in the incident.
“The individual has officially been charged with one count of murder and two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon,” he told The Independent.
The Dallas-area incidents occurred at an especially difficult time for the Dallas Police Department — a separate entity from DART Police — which was hit by a ransomware attack just days before the outlet mall shooting. The FBI said on Friday that it was coordinating with the city, after the ransomware disrupted public services and websites, according to Reuters.
The computer disruption hindered efforts to quickly find information about the Allen suspect, who was believed to be from Dallas, police told local outlets following the mall shooting. The Dallas CIO was scheduled to brief the public safety committee on Monday on the status of the ransomware attack, WFAA reported.
North Texas and federal authorities, meanwhile, continued to piece together details from the Saturday outlet shooting as Gov Abbott continued to tweet about the border later on Monday. Aside from one weekend tweet about the Allen tragedy — highlighting his attendance at a vigil — the Republican avoided most mention of the weekend carnage on his social media.
“We’re deploying the new Texas Tactical Border Force to border hotspots to repel illegal crossings,” he tweeted Monday, adding: “In Biden’s absence, Texas continues taking unprecedented action to respond to this crisis.”
Some of his constituents urged him to look more closely and quickly at other crises, particularly after the Lone Star’s horrific weekend of violence.
“We knew we could count on you to commence with xenophobic gaslighting in an attempt to take the focus off all the carnage across Texas this weekend,” wrote @CariMarshallTX. “Guess what - it’s not working.”