MASS SHOOTINGS | El Paso opens healing center


EL PASO, Texas (AP) — El Paso officials opened a grief center today to help people cope with last weekend's mass shooting at a Walmart, in which 22 people, nearly all with Latino last names, were killed and many others were wounded.

The center opened a day before President Donald Trump was due to visit the border city, much to the chagrin of some Democrats and other residents who say his fiery rhetoric has fostered the kind of anti-immigrant hatred that may have motivated Saturday's attack.

El Paso's police chief, Greg Allen, said investigators believe the suspected gunman, 21-year-old Patrick Crusius, posted an anti-immigrant screed that appeared online shortly before the attack. Crusius is being held on capital murder charges, though federal prosecutors are also considering charging Crusius with hate crimes.

On Monday, Crusius was assigned a veteran public defender from San Antonio, Mark Stevens. Stevens didn't immediately reply to a request for comment left Tuesday.

Within hours of the grief center opening, Democratic Rep. Veronica Escobar said victims' families were already inside, where services included counseling, travel assistance and financial support.

"We've got to make sure that folks have access to mental health care. There's going to be a lot of trauma in our community, a lot of children saw things that no human being should see. And so we're going to do everything possible," said Escobar, who is from El Paso.

Trump on Wednesday was also expected to visit Dayton, Ohio, where another gunman killed nine people and wounded many others in an attack only hours after the El Paso mass shooting. White House counselor Kellyanne Conway recounted visits Trump has made to grieving communities after mass shootings in Parkland, Florida, and Las Vegas.

"He goes, trying to help heal communities, meeting with those who are injured, those loved ones who have survived, the innocents who have lost their lives so senselessly and tragically," Conway said.

1:47 p.m.

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — Ohio's Republican governor bucked his party to call for expanded gun laws today and some Democrats in Texas told President Donald Trump to stay away as both states reeled from a pair of shootings that killed 31 .

A racist screed remained the focus of police investigating the massacre at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, as further details trickled out on the shooter at a popular nightlife strip in Dayton, Ohio, who was described as fascinated with mass murder.

PUSH FOR LEGISLATION IN OHIO

Gov. Mike DeWine urged the GOP-led state Legislature to pass laws requiring background checks for nearly all gun sales and allowing courts to restrict firearms access for people perceived as threats.

Persuading the Legislature to pass such proposals could be an uphill battle. It has given little consideration this session to those and other gun-safety measures already introduced by Democrats and DeWine's Republican predecessor, John Kasich, also unsuccessfully pushed for a so-called red flag law on restricting firearms for people considered threats.

"We can come together to do these things to save lives," DeWine said.

EX: OHIO SHOOTER SHARED DARK THOUGHTS

An ex-girlfriend of the Ohio gunman, 24-year-old Connor Betts, said he suffered from bipolar disorder, joked about his dark thoughts and exhibited a fascination with mass shootings.

The woman, Adelia Johnson, said in an online essay that Betts showed her a video of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting on their first date.

She said Betts expressed "uncontrollable urges" that she called "red flags," which eventually led her to call things off in May.

EL PASO DEMOCRATS SPURN PRESIDENTIAL VISIT

President Donald Trump was planning visits to both cities Wednesday, an announcement that stirred some resistance in El Paso.

Democratic Rep. Veronica Escobar of El Paso made clear that the president was not welcome in her hometown as it mourned. Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke, who was an El Paso congressman for six years, also said Trump should stay away.

GUN CONTROL AND IMMIGRATION

On Monday, Trump made a vague expression of openness to new gun laws , suggesting 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 that 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.

In both El Paso and Dayton, a young white male was identified as the lone suspect. The suspect in the Texas shooting, 21-year-old Patrick Crusius, was booked on murder charges. Betts was killed as police quickly swooped in to end his ambush.

1:06 p.m.

NEW YORK (AP) — Like most retailers, Walmart is accustomed to the everyday dealings of shoplifters. Now, it's confronting a bigger threat: active shooters.

Three days after a man opened fire at one of its stores in El Paso, Texas, and left at least 22 dead , the nation's largest retailer is faced with how to make its workers and customers feel safe.

The discounter has long dealt with violent crimes at its stores across the country, including one that took place less than a week ago in Mississippi where a disgruntled employee killed two co-workers and wounded a police officer. In early November 2017, three customers were killed at a Walmart in Colorado in a random shooting by a lone gunman.

The El Paso store shooting, however, was the deadliest in the company's history, Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove confirmed. No workers were killed but two are recovering from injuries.

"No retailer is immune to a violent act," Hargrove said. "That's why we take training so seriously."

Robert Moraca, vice president for loss prevention at the National Retail Federation, said he's fielded lots of calls from retailers around the country over the weekend, many of whom just wanted to go over their security protocols.

"We naturally have a heightened security awareness," he said. He noted most retailers have active shooting training programs for workers so there's not "a lot of knee-jerk reactions."

Walmart launched computer-based active shooter training in 2015 for all its employees and then in 2017, it made its workers take it on a quarterly instead of annual basis. Last month, Walmart started incorporating virtual reality technology in its active-shooter training.

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