EL PASO (Texas) • A 21-year-old gunman armed with a rifle turned a crowded Walmart store in the majority-Hispanic border city of El Paso into a scene of chaos and bloodshed, stalking shoppers in the aisles in an attack that left at least 20 people dead and 26 others wounded, the authorities said.
For several minutes late on Saturday morning, the packed Walmart near the Cielo Vista Mall was filled with gun smoke and the echo of gunfire. Workers and customers, some bloodied, fled out the doors. Others huddled in the aisles or on the ground.
Mr Manuel Uruchurtu, 20, had just paid at the register and was walking out of the store when he heard shots. He turned around and saw the gunman holding a long gun and wearing what looked like shoulder pads.
As Mr Uruchurtu fled the store, he saw two bodies on the ground outside, one in a pool of blood. "I saw people crying; children, old people, all in shock," he said. "I saw a baby, maybe six to eight months old, with blood all over its belly."
Ms Adriana Quezada said she was in the women's clothing section with her two children when she heard gunfire. "But I thought they were hits, like roof construction," Ms Quezada, 39, said of the shots.
Her 19-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son crouched low to the ground, then dashed out of the store through an emergency exit. They were not hurt, she said.
Relatives said a 25-year-old woman who was shot while apparently trying to shield her two-month-old son was among those killed, while Mexican officials said three Mexican nationals were among the dead and six more were wounded.
The authorities identified the suspected gunman as Patrick Crusius, from a Dallas suburb. He was taken into custody after he surrendered to the police outside the Walmart and has been booked on capital murder charges. The authorities said they were investigating a manifesto Crusius, who is white, might have posted before the shooting, which described an attack in response to "the Hispanic invasion of Texas".
"Right now, we have a manifesto from this individual," El Paso police chief Greg Allen told reporters, although he said later that officers were still not clear whether the gunman had posted the document.
The manifesto the chief appeared to be referring to was an anti-immigrant screed titled The Inconvenient Truth.
The post declared support for the gunman who killed 51 people in Christchurch, New Zealand, outlined fears about Hispanic people gaining power in the US, and appeared to discuss specific details about the attack, including weapons. The manifesto was posted on 8chan, an online forum where the Christchurch gunman announced his attack. It appeared to have been published at 10.20am, 19 minutes before the first 911 call.
Dr Ryan Mielke, a spokesman for the University Medical Centre of El Paso, said 13 of the injured were taken to the hospital, including one who died. Two of the injured were children who were transferred to El Paso Children's Hospital, he added. Eleven other victims aged 35 to 82 were being treated at Del Sol Medical Centre.
In a series of tweets, US President Donald Trump called the El Paso killings "an act of cowardice", saying there are "no reasons or excuses that will ever justify killing innocent people".
The El Paso shooting also reverberated on the campaign trail for next year's US presidential election, with several Democratic candidates denouncing the rise of gun violence and repeating calls for tighter gun control measures.
"It's past time we take action and end our gun violence epidemic," Democratic presidential front runner Joe Biden said on Twitter after the first shooting.
Pope Francis used his Angelus prayer at St Peter's Square in Rome to mourn the victims of the shooting, as well as a separate one in Dayton, Ohio, less than 24 hours later.