Gloria Garces kneels in front of crosses at a makeshift memorial near the scene of a mass shooting at a shopping complex Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019, in El Paso, Texas. The border city jolted by a weekend massacre at a Walmart absorbed more grief Monday as the death toll climbed and prepared for a visit from President Donald Trump over anger from El Paso residents and local Democratic leaders who say he isn’t welcome and should stay away. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Gloria Garces kneels in front of crosses at a makeshift memorial near the scene of a mass shooting at a shopping complex Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019, in El Paso, Texas. The border city jolted by a weekend massacre at a Walmart absorbed more grief Monday as the death toll climbed and prepared for a visit from President Donald Trump over anger from El Paso residents and local Democratic leaders who say he isn’t welcome and should stay away. (AP Photo/John Locher)

U.S. authorities seek leads in mass shootings that left 31 dead

The back-to-back shootings hours apart and 1,300 miles away from each other quickly turned political

Authorities in two U.S. cities scoured leads in a pair of weekend mass shootings that killed 31, trying to piece together the motives that led two young men to unleash violence on innocent people in crowded public places.

In El Paso, Texas, the death toll creeped upward Monday from the shooting two days earlier at a Walmart store, with two additional victims succumbing to injuries. Police zeroed in on a racist screed posted online before the shooting to try to link it to the suspect. In Dayton, Ohio, even more questions remained about what spurred the suspected shooter to target a popular nightlife stretch in an attack that left the suspect’s sister among the dead.

The back-to-back shootings hours apart and 1,300 miles (2,092 kilometres) away from each other quickly turned political, with Washington lining up along typical party contours in response. President Donald Trump cited mental illness and video games but steered away from talk of curbing sales of guns, including the military-style weapons believed to have been used in the attacks.

As familiar post-shooting rituals played out in both cities, decades of an unmistakably American problem of gun violence ensured as many headlines as the deaths garnered, they weren’t entirely shocking to a public that’s grown accustomed to such bloodshed. As with a litany of other shooting sites before, stories of the goodness seen in lives cut short juxtaposed with inklings of the demented motives of the shooters, and on-scene heroics with troubling ideologies that may have sparked the bloodshed.

READ MORE: 2 El Paso victims die at hospital, raising death toll to 22

Equally familiar was the politicized reaction from Washington and around the country.

Trump made a vague expression of openness to new gun laws that was met with skepticism by an opposition that has heard similar talk before.

“Hate has no place in America,” the president declared in a 10-minute speech from the White House Diplomatic Reception Room, condemning racism and rehashing national conversations on treatment for mental health, depiction of violence in the media, and discourse on the internet.

The anti-immigrant writing that police were working to link to the alleged perpetrator in the Texas shooting, 21-year-old Patrick Crusius, mirrored some of Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric. Some, like Ernesto Carrillo, whose brother-in-law Ivan Manzano was killed in the Walmart attack, said the president shares blame for inflammatory language Carrillo called a “campaign of terror.”

“His work as a generator of hate ended in this,” said Carrillo, who crossed the border from Ciudad Juárez on Monday for a meeting in El Paso with Mexico’s foreign minister. “Thanks to him, this is all happening.”

Trump, in turn, tweeted that the media “contributed greatly to the anger and rage that has built up.”

Trump suggested a bill to expand gun background checks could be combined with his long-sought effort to toughen the nation’s immigration system, but gave no rationale for the pairing. Studies have repeatedly shown immigrants have a lower level of criminality than those born in the U.S., both shooting suspects were citizens, and federal officials are investigating anti-immigrant bias as a potential motive in the Texas massacre.

Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, a leading voice on gun reform since the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in his state rattled the country with the slaughter of 20 children, immediately dismissed the president’s proposal as meaningless. “Tying background checks to immigration reform is a transparent play to do nothing,” he wrote on Twitter.

Whatever the political back-and-forth, or the re-energized presence of gun control talk on the presidential campaign trail, the very real consequences of gun violence were still being bared by victims badly injured in the two states.

In both incidents, a young white male was identified as the lone suspect. Though authorities were eyeing racism as a possible factor in Texas, where the alleged shooter has been booked on murder charges, in Ohio police said there was no indication of a similar motivation. Police in Dayton said they responded in about 30 seconds early Sunday and fatally shot 24-year-old Connor Betts. 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.

Betts’ sister was also among the dead.

“It seems to just defy believability he would shoot his own sister, but it’s also hard to believe that he didn’t recognize it was his sister, so we just don’t know,” said Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine visited the scene Sunday and said policymakers must consider: “Is there anything we can do in the future to make sure something like this does not happen?”

Hours later, hundreds of people stood at a vigil and vented their frustration at the Republican governor, interrupting him with chants of “Make a change!” and “Do something!” as he talked about the victims.

“People are angry, and they’re upset. They should be,” said Jennifer Alfrey, 24, of Middletown, who added that she didn’t agree with interrupting the vigil but understood why so many did.

In Texas, where 22 were killed, authorities said the accused shooter hailed from a Dallas suburb a 10-hour drive away. Authorities seemed to take some solace in knowing the shooter wasn’t one of their own.

“It’s not what we’re about,” El Paso Mayor Dee Margo said.

___

Sedensky reported from New York.

___

Contributing to this report were John Seewer in Dayton, Ohio; Julie Carr Smyth and Kantele Franko in Columbus, Ohio; Cedar Attanasio and Morgan Lee in El Paso, Texas; Paul J. Weber in Austin, Texas; and Zeke Miller and Jonathan Lemire in Washington.

Matt Sedensky And Astrid Galvan, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Surrey Mayor delivering “virtual” State of the City Address on Tuesday. (Screen shot)
Surrey Mayor says city is ‘earning accolades from near and far’

Doug McCallum delivered his second State of the City Address on Tuesday since being elected in 2018

The George Massey Tunnel will be closed overnight May 28 and 29 to test the tunnel’s fire suppression system and overhead lane control signals. (Black Press Media file photo)
Overnight Massey Tunnel closures coming May 28, 29

Closure to allow safe testing of tunnel’s fire suppression system and overhead lane control signals

North Surrey Sport and Ice Complex. (Photo: larkgroup.com)
North Surrey rink, Newton playground earn B.C. excellence awards

Awards presented by BC Recreation and Parks Association

A Surrey man has been charged with assault. (West Vancouver Police)
Surrey man charged after 17-year-old slashed with knife in West Vancouver park

Akash Ram, 19, charged with assault following May 2020 incident

Members of Whalley Legion Junior Band at an event in the early 1980s. (Facebook photo)
SURREY NOW & THEN: When the city’s ‘official band’ marched with Whalley Legion title

A weekly look back at Surrey-area landmark sites, events and people

Troy Patterson, a Cadboro Bay 15-year-old, got a virtual meeting with B.C.’s environment minister months after he started an online petition calling for construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline to stop. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
B.C. teen’s 23,000-name Coastal GasLink petition gets him an audience with the minister

15-year-old Saanich high school student and George Heyman discussed project for about 30 minutes

Announced Tuesday, May 18 by Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth, the province added gyms, dance and fitness studios to its list of places where face coverings are mandatory (AP/Steven Senne)
Masks now required at all times inside B.C. gyms, including during workouts

The province added gyms, dance and fitness studios to its list of places where face coverings are mandatory Tuesday

Reinhard “Bud” Loewen of Abbotsford has now been charged with 21 counts of sexual assault related to his massage business. (Facebook photo)
Former Abbotsford masseur now faces 21 counts of sexual assault

Bud Loewen of Bud’s Massage Therapy initally faced three charges

Over the years, police have worked with sketch artists to draw what the boys could have looked like at the times of their deaths. (Vancouver Police Department)
DNA breakthrough expected in cold case involving murdered Vancouver boys, 7 and 8

Forensic analysts are working to identify relatives of the children, whose bodies were found in Stanley Park in 1953

Livestock competitions have been part of the Pacific National Exhibiton for more than a century. (Maple Ridge News files)
B.C. provides $50 million to keep major tourist attractions going

Tour bus companies also eligible for latest COVID-19 aid

Dr. Euiseok Kim is the medical director of the new Abbotsford post-COVID-19 recovery clinic. (Submitted)
Post-COVID-19 recovery clinic opens in Abbotsford

New facility following model of first clinic which opened in Surrey

Derek Descoteau with his trusty dog Harvey. (Photo submitted)
Friends provide continuing comfort for family in wake of unresolved senseless B.C. murder

Case remains before the courts five years after Derek Descoteau’s abrupt stabbing death in Chemainus

Two small dogs were also discovered by the officer, one had died, and the other was taken by animal control and sent for veterinary care with the BC SPCA. (File Photo)
Body discovered in parked van in Mission with 2 dogs, 1 dead

Remains in state of decomposure, surviving dog sent for veterinary care with BC SPCA

Most Read