Residents in majority-Hispanic El Paso told US President Donald Trump Tuesday to stay away amid fury over his anti-immigration rhetoric as he struggles to unite the country in the wake of back-to-back mass shootings that killed 31 people.
Trump is scheduled to stop off in the Texan border city where 22 died in a weekend gun massacre on Wednesday, after first visiting Dayton, Ohio, where another gunman shot nine dead.
The president called on Americans in a nationwide address Monday to condemn bigotry - but community leaders say his words rang hollow set against a longstanding refusal to call out white supremacy and a history of tweets widely condemned as racist.
"This president, who helped create the hatred that made Saturday's tragedy possible, should not come to El Paso," tweeted Beto O'Rourke, a Democratic presidential hopeful and former congressman who grew up in the city.
"We do not need more division. We need to heal. He has no place here."
Before opening fire at a Walmart superstore in El Paso, the 21-year-old suspected gunman, who is white and from the Dallas area, reportedly posted an online manifesto railing against a "Hispanic invasion of Texas."
Critics pointed out that the language echoed much of Trump's rhetoric on Twitter and at rallies, where he has frequently framed Hispanic migrants as part of an "invasion."
Trump has also characterized Mexicans and Central Americans as criminals, gang members and rapists, and described the communities of African American lawmakers on several occasions as "infested" with crime and filth.
Congresswoman Veronica Escobar, whose district includes the area targeted by the El Paso gunman, urged Trump "to consider the fact that his words and his actions have played a role in this."
"From my perspective, he is not welcome here," Escobar told MSNBC. "He should not come here while we are in mourning."
Presidential advisor Kellyanne Conway accused Democrats of politicizing a moment of acute pain while Trump was trying to "bring the country together, heal a nation."
She was backed by the chairman of the El Paso County Republican Party, Adolpho Telles, who defended Trump's visit but told CNN he needs to be more careful about his language.
In his nationwide address, Trump spoke out against racism but blamed mental illness, video games and the internet for fueling gun violence, sidestepping the fact that other countries with these issues do not have mass shootings.
He had nothing substantial to say about gun control measures, drawing expressions of disappointment from those hoping for a healing moment.
"He mentioned gun issues one time," said Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, describing the president's comments as "unhelpful."
"I think, watching the president over the past few years on the issue of guns... I don't know if he knows what he believes, frankly."
'He has no right'
Residents in El Paso, unimpressed by Trump's tightly scripted appeal for unity, told AFP they were fearful of a rise in white nationalism and said the president was part of the problem.
"I do blame our president. Since the moment he got into office the rhetoric, the hate that he's got towards people that are just different color skin, he has no right," said Silvia Rios.
Adding to the backlash, Washington-based non-profit the Center for Public Integrity questioned Trump's self-professed "unfailing support" to El Paso, pointing to $570,000 in unpaid police and public safety-related bills it said he owed the city dating back to a campaign visit in February.
The president began Tuesday apparently irritated by veiled criticism from former president Barack Obama, who called on Americans to "soundly reject language coming out of the mouths of any of our leaders that feeds a climate of fear and hatred."
Trump responded with a tweeted quote from Fox News anchor Brian Kilmeade, who said Obama had seen 32 mass shootings during his presidency, yet "not many people said Obama is out of control."
Legislation to overhaul gun control under Obama failed in 2013 when the Republican-controlled Senate rejected a ban of assault-style weapons and expanding background checks.
He told the BBC that gun control was "the one area where I feel that I've been most frustrated and most stymied."
Authorities scour leads in mass shootings that left 31 dead
Authorities in two US 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. In Dayton, Ohio, even more questions remained about what spurred the suspected shooter.
The back-to-back shootings hours apart and 1,300 miles (2,092 kilometers) 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.
Shooting victims include a mom who died protecting her baby
In the border town of El Paso, Texas, a shooter opened fire and left 20 people dead and more than two dozen injured. Hours later in Dayton, Ohio, a shooter killed 9 people and injured at least 27 others.
Here are some of their stories:
JORDAN ANCHONDO: ‘GAVE HER LIFE’ FOR HER BABY
Jordan Anchondo was among those killed in El Paso, Anchondo’s sister said, and she apparently died while protecting her 2-month-old son from the hail of bullets.
Leta Jamrowski of El Paso spoke to The Associated Press as she paced a waiting room at the University Medical Center of El Paso, where her 2-month-old nephew was being treated for broken bones — the result of his mother’s fall.
“From the baby’s injuries, they said that more than likely my sister was trying to shield him,” she said. “So when she got shot she was holding him and she fell on him, so that’s why he broke some of his bones. So he pretty much lived because she gave her life.”
Jordan, a mother of three, and Andre Anchondo had dropped off her 5-year old daughter at cheerleading practice before going to shop for school supplies on Saturday at a Walmart in El Paso. They never returned.
ANDRE ANCHONDO: HAD TURNED HIS LIFE AROUND
Andre Anchondo — the husband of Jordan Anchondo, who was also killed in El Paso — had recently turned his life around after struggles with drug dependence and run-ins with the law, a friend recalled.
On Sunday night, John Jamrowski, the grandfather of Jordan Anchondo, said in a text message that his family has been notified of the death of Andre Anchondo.
The death of Jordan Anchondo was confirmed in the hours after the attack, but the family agonized as investigators waited to confirm more than a dozen other deaths.
Koteiba “Koti” Azzam, a friend of Andre Anchondo, had fond memories of him.
“I love the guy,” Azzam said in a phone interview from San Marcos, Texas, where he attends Texas State University. “He had the character and the charisma.”
Azzam said Andre Anchondo had started a business in El Paso, building things from granite and stone, and made it successful through hard work. He also was on the verge of completing a home for his family.
NICHOLAS CUMER: HAD HELPED CANCER PATIENTS
A graduate student at a university in Pennsylvania who was interning with a facility in Dayton for people battling cancer was among those killed in the Ohio city early Sunday.
Nicholas Cumer was a graduate student in the master of cancer care program at Saint Francis University.
“Nicholas was dedicated to caring for others,” university President Malachi Van Tassell said in a statement. The university, in Loretto, Pennsylvania, is the oldest Franciscan institution of higher learning in the United States.
The family released the following statement through a relative: “We are heartbroken by the loss of our Nicholas in this senseless act on August 4. As our family grieves, we ask for privacy at this time. Thank you.”
Cumer had been in Dayton as part of his internship program with the Maple Tree Cancer Alliance, which strives to improve the quality of life for individuals battling cancer through exercise, nutrition, and faith.
Maple Tree Cancer Alliance offered Cumer a full-time position just days before he was killed, the organization said on its website. It described Cumer as hard-working, dedicated and one week away from completing his internship.
“He was well liked and respected by everyone on our team, and we all will miss him very much,” the organization said.
Van Tassell said a Mass in Cumer’s memory will be arranged on campus this week.
LOIS OGLESBY: A NURSING STUDENT WHO WANTED TO CARE FOR CHILDREN
Lois Oglesby, 27, was in nursing school and looked forward to a career that would make the most of her love for children, her cousin said. She was also the mother of a newborn and had an older daughter.
Derasha Merrett told the Dayton Daily News that she was up feeding her own newborn when a friend called her at 3 a.m. Sunday to tell her, through sobs, that Oglesby had died in the Dayton shooting.
“She was a wonderful mother, a wonderful person,” Merrett said. “I have cried so much, I can’t cry anymore.”
Merrett said she and her cousin grew up in the same church, were on the same drill team and that Oglesby worked at her children’s day care center.
“We all grew up in this little town, Merrett said. “We’re all family.”
JESSICA COCA GARCIA and MEMO GARCIA: FUNDRAISING FOR KIDS’ SPORTS TEAM
Jessica Coca Garcia and Memo Garcia were at the Walmart in El Paso to raise funds for a youth sports team one of their children played on when a gunman opened fire, wounding them, a relative said.
Norma Coca told Wichita, Kansas-television station KWCH that her daughter and son-in-law were near the front doors of the Walmart when they were shot.
Coca, who lives in Salina, Kansas, said her daughter, Jessica Coca Garcia, was shot three times in the leg. She said her son-in-law, Memo Garcia, was shot twice in the leg and once in the back. She said her daughter was in stable condition and her son-in-law was in critical condition.
Jessica Coca Garcia’s father, Don Coca, said they have family in the El Paso area who were able to be with the couple. Don Coca says: “She was just crying … I told her that our prayers are there and we’re on our way.”
The couple’s 5-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter were also at the Walmart and were not shot.
MARIO DE ALBA: A WOUNDED FATHER
Mario de Alba, 45, had come to El Paso with his family from Mexico to go shopping.
Described by his sister Cristina de Alba as an “excellent father” and as a “decent, hardworking person,” he was in serious condition Sunday after being shot in the back, the bullet exiting via his diaphragm.
His wife, Olivia Mariscal, and 10-year-old daughter Erika both appear to be recovering after also being wounded, de Alba said from the El Paso hospital where her brother is being treated.
The family lives in Chihuahua, Mexico — a four-hour drive south of El Paso — and was buying school supplies in the Texas city. El Paso is a popular shopping destination for people who live in northern Mexico.
Mario de Alba’s Facebook page shows him as a devoted father to Erika.
In one picture, taken in a living room, Erika cups her hand in the shape of a heart in front of an entertainment center. 0n the shelves behind her are the words FAMILY and PEACE in bold letters.
MEXICAN GOVERNMENT IDENTIFIES FIVE CITIZENS KILLED IN EL PASO
Mexico’s Foreign Ministry identified five citizens who were killed in the shooting Saturday in a shopping complex in El Paso. The ministry did not provide ages for them. They are:
— Sara Esther Regalado of Cuidad Juarez.
— Adolfo Cerros Hernández of Aguascalientes.
— Jorge Calvillo García of Torreón.
— Elsa Mendoza de la Mora of Yepomera.
— Gloria Irma Márquez of Juárez.
Gunman kills 20, wounds 26 at Walmart store in Texas
A man armed with a rifle opened fire at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, on Saturday, killing 20 people and wounding 26 others as panicked shoppers and employees scurried for cover before the gunman surrendered to police at the scene, Reuters has reported.
Many shoppers in the busy store were buying back-to-school supplies when they found themselves caught up in the latest mass shooting to rock the United States, just six days after a teenage gunman killed three people at a summer food festival in Northern California.
Saturday's suspect was officially identified as a 21-year-old white male from Allen, Texas, a Dallas suburb some 650 miles (1,046 km) east of El Paso, which lies along the Rio Grande, across the U.S.-Mexico border from Ciudad Juarez.
Citing law enforcement officials, multiple news media reports named the suspect as Patrick Crusius.
El Paso police chief Greg Allen said authorities were examining a manifesto from the suspect indicating "there is a potential nexus to a hate crime." Officials declined to elaborate and said the investigation was continuing.
Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said three Mexican nationals were among the dead, and six others were among the wounded.
The carnage ranked as the eighth-deadliest mass shooting in modern US history, after a 1984 shooting in San Ysidro, California, that claimed 21 lives.
"We are going to aggressively prosecute it both as capital murder but also as a hate crime, which is exactly what it appears to be," Texas Governor Greg Abbott told reporters, adding, "I don't want to get ahead of the evidence."
The suspect surrendered to police as officers closed in on him, and he was taken into custody without incident, authorities said.