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Shooting at El Paso mall leaves one person dead

By Sarah May on
 February 16, 2023

A tragic scene unfolded early Wednesday evening in El Paso, Texas, when a gunman opened fire at Cielo Vista Mall, leaving one victim dead and three more injured, as the El Paso Times reports.

In a sad twist, the incident occurred in a busy shopping area not far from a Walmart store that was the site of a 2019 mass shooting in which 23 people were killed, as NPR noted.

Quick, but deadly

Peter Pacillas, interim police chief in El Paso, indicated that 911 calls about the incident began coming in around 5:05 p.m.

The Times noted that an off-duty police officer working as a security guard inside the mall snapped into action almost immediately, successfully taking down the shooter and holding him in custody.

Pacillas noted that the off-duty officer did not fire his weapon while neutralizing the gunman adding, “It was a dynamic scene and it was quickly brought under control” with the aid of the El Paso Police Department, the Texas Department of Public Safety, U.S. Border Patrol, and local FBI officials, all of whom responded to the incident.

A total of two suspects were ultimately taken into custody, at which point, the interim chief declared the threat to public safety over.

Chaotic scene

As the Times explained, videos posted to social media revealed the chaotic scene that ensued inside the mall, with customers fleeing the building and pouring into the parking lot outside.

Though the shooting incident itself was brief in duration, the terrifying scene was particularly vivid for the aunt of Olivia Troye, a former homeland security adviser, who was forced to take cover inside the mall on Wednesday and was also present at the 2019 horror at the nearby Walmart, as her niece explained on Twitter and said, “Thank you once again to the amazing stranger who pulled her to safety once again this time around.”

According to Fox News, everyone involved in the shooting, including the victims, are males, and though he was asked whether the melee was likely gang-related or due to hostilities between two groups of individuals, Pacillas reserved judgment pending further investigation.

El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser pledged to release information “in a timely manner” but noted a desire not to compromise information obtained thus far. In aid of additional evidence gathering, the FBI established a tip line for citizens to provide any photo or video materials they may have captured during the event, as local ABC affiliate KVIA reported.

Victims remain hospitalized

While one of the gunman's victims died on site, three others were transported to area hospitals, according to KVIA.

University Medical Center of El Paso reported having received two male injury victims, with both initially reported to be in critical condition.

Del Sol Medical Center received the third victim, and that patient was said to be in fair condition as of Wednesday evening.

Neither the identities of the suspects nor the victims had been released, and the incident remains under active investigation, according to El Paso police.

Reactions pour in

As the Times noted, numerous public figures stepped forward Wednesday with reactions to the violence at Cielo Vista Mall, with Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott posting on Twitter, “I spoke to [El Paso] Mayor [Oscar] Leeser about the shooting tonight in El Paso. I offered the full support of the State of Texas, including the assistance of the Texas Department of Public Safety and Texas Division of Emergency Management to help the city of El Paso to respond to this tragic event.”

Democrat Rep. Veronica Escobar (TX-16) angrily responded to the governor, saying, “How about gun violence prevention legislation for our community's security? You promised you would take action after the August 3rd shooting and you've done nothing but loosen gun laws. The legislature is in session. Be a man of your word for once and do something!”

State Sen. Cesar Blanco, Democrat of El Paso, tweeted, “I'm disappointed to hear about the shooting that took place in Cielo Vista Mall this evening” and added, “[t]hank you to all law enforcement officers and first responders who quickly responded to the scene and are working to keep our community safe.”

Never one to miss a chance to voice an opinion in the aftermath of a tragic shooting, former presidential hopeful Beto O'Rourke said, “This shooting at Cielo Vista is painful for El Paso, especially for the families of those killed at the nearby Walmart in 2019. I don't know the details yet. But what I do know is that I love this town and I will do everything I can to stop this from happening again.”