EL PASO, Texas — Officials continued searching Sunday for answers after a gunman killed 20 people and wounded dozens more at a shopping center here, while authorities across in Ohio responded to another shooting rampage that ended with nine dead.

The shooting at a Walmart and shopping center in West Texas, not far from the border with Mexico, sparked panic, grief and a sprawling investigation, as yet another public place was terrorized by a hail of bullets. The chaotic but grimly familiar scene of terror here was followed just hours later by a late-night shooting rampage in Dayton, Ohio, during which nine people were slain and more than two dozen injured, officials said.

A Justice Department official says the federal government is treating the El Paso shooting that killed 20 people as a “domestic terrorist” case.

U.S. Attorney John Bash said Sunday at a news conference in El Paso that the federal government is also investigating the attack at a shopping plaza with a view toward bringing federal hate crime charges.

Authorities have been working to confirm whether a racist, anti-immigrant screed posted online shortly before the attack was written by the suspected gunman, 21-year-old Patrick Wood Crusius.

El Paso County District Attorney Jaime Esparza told reporters that the state of Texas also plans to seek the death penalty.

It was a ghastly scene across America, with more than two dozen people killed in two shooting rampages over the course of a single tragic day. Another seven people were wounded early Sunday during a shooting in Chicago.

Authorities in Ohio said that an attacker wearing body armor there opened fire early Sunday morning amid a busy scene of Dayton bars and restaurants. The carnage took less than a minute, officials said, before the shooter was stopped and killed.

The rampage in El Paso hours earlier apparently began outside the Walmart on Saturday morning. A routine morning gave way to horrifying scenes of people screaming, running and dodging bullets in parking lots. One witness said the attacker was just “shooting randomly.”

Law enforcement authorities have delved into the background of 21-year-old Patrick Crusius, whom two officials identified as the suspect who opened fire here.

Crusius, from the Dallas suburb of Allen, surrendered to police, giving officials a relatively unusual chance to directly interrogate a mass shooting suspect. In many cases, attackers are killed or take their own lives, as happened just last week after a gunman opened fire on a food festival in Gilroy, California, after fatally shooting three other people.

There is no universally agreed upon definition of a mass shooting. Federal law defines a mass killing as three or more people killed in a single incident, a definition the FBI has cited in studies of active shooters. Other attempts to track the number of shootings, such as the online Gun Violence Archive, include cases where multiple people were shot but not killed.

Authorities filed a capital murder charge against Crusius on Sunday, according to court records. No attorney was listed in those records as of Sunday morning and it was unclear if a public defender had been appointed to represent him. Jail records showed that he was booked into the downtown El Paso jail on Sunday.

The shooting in El Paso set off waves of anger, sadness and recriminations, fueling calls for stricter gun control as the country reeled from yet another bullet-riddled rampage in yet another city.

What may have motivated the attacker remained a focus of investigators, who have examined a manifesto posted online that included screeds against immigrants. Authorities believe the Texas shooting suspect posted the document, officials said, but continue to gather evidence.

The manifesto was another unsettlingly familiar part of the tragedy. It listed angry – and, at times, jumbled – motivations for the attack, including rants about a “Hispanic invasion.” Officials said they were looking at the shooting as a possible hate crime, which could potentially lead to federal charges in the case, though local agencies were leading the inquiry over the weekend.

The shooting “has a nexus to a hate crime,” El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen said.

El Paso Sheriff Richard Wiles, who oversees the jail holding the suspected attacker, called the attack racist in a Facebook post Saturday night.

“This Anglo man came here to kill Hispanics,” he wrote. “I’m outraged and you should be too. This entire nation should be outraged. In this day and age, with all the serious issues we face, we are still confronted with people who will kill another for the sole reason of the color of their skin.”

The manifesto found by investigators carried tragic echoes of previous attacks. The alleged shooter in Pittsburgh last year also ranted about an “invasion” before opening fire there. And the manifesto in Texas also referenced the alleged New Zealand attacker who opened fire in mosques there this year, killing 51 people, who had posted a manifesto citing a previous mass shooter in America.

Mass violence is often followed by the revelation that the suspected attacker studied or otherwise cited a previous attack – creating a tapestry of tragedy that has linked attacks in Florida and Virginia as well as others in South Carolina and New Zealand. The manifesto posted by the alleged New Zealand attacker specifically cited the white supremacist who attacked a church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015, killing nine black parishioners.

The shooting in El Paso was also the latest taking place at a so-called soft target – places that, unlike highly secured government buildings, attract large crowds but can be relatively easily infiltrated by an attacker intent on carrying out violence. The Department of Homeland Security earlier this year released a document with guidance for security at such places, noting that they “may be vulnerable to attacks using simple tactics and readily accessible weapons.” This guide specifically mentioned shopping centers as possible targets.

The shooting in El Paso was the deadliest American mass shooting since November 2017, when a gunman killed 26 people in a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. It also came a little more than a year after a student in Santa Fe, Texas, allegedly opened fire, killing 10 people at a high school.

The attack reverberated beyond America’s borders. Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said on Twitter on Sunday morning that the number of Mexicans wounded in the El Paso attack had risen to seven. He said Mexicans were among the dead but did not provide details. He had previously said that a 10-year-old girl was among the people wounded in the shooting.

In Ciudad Juarez, just south of the U.S. border, government officials, business groups and others in the Mexican city released statements of solidarity and sympathy.


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