Aug. 3, 2019, marks one of the darkest days in Texas history.
A gunman opened fire inside an El Paso-area Walmart that Saturday, killing 23 people and injuring dozens more.
The shooting has been described as the deadliest attack on Latinos in modern U.S. history and the FBI continues to investigate it as a hate crime.
Just before 10:40 a.m. that day, the gunman walked into a Walmart Supercenter armed with a semi-automatic civilian version of an AK-47. Prior to that, according to the store manager, the gunman began firing in the parking lot. A “Code Brown” was issued, indicating a shooter, and employees began helping customers to escape or hide.
Following the shooting, the suspect drove away from the store to a nearby location where he identified himself as the shooter and surrendered to the Texas Rangers.
Among those killed were 13 Americans, eight Mexicans and one German. One victim died the day after the shooting, another victim died two days after it, and a third victim died eight months later.
The suspect was charged with capital murder. Police believe he purchased the gun legally.
Investigators believe the suspect posted a manifesto prior to the shooting to the online message board 8chan. It claims inspiration from the mosque shootings in New Zealand that claimed 51 lives earlier in 2019. In addition, it is anti-immigrant and anti-Hispanic and promotes a white nationalist conspiracy theory called the Great Replacement.
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday met with Latino community leaders to commemorate the anniversary of the shooting.
The White House meeting also included discussion of Biden’s economic agenda, immigration reform and voting rights.
The El Paso Times on Tuesday published an op-ed by President Joe Biden in which he said the greatest threat to the U.S. is domestic terrorism rooted in white supremecy.
"He thought that his hatred of immigrants could prove more powerful than the culture and vibrancy of the people of this community. He was wrong. Yet America’s intelligence community has confirmed what the people of El Paso know all too well: the most lethal terrorist threat to our homeland in recent years has been domestic terrorism rooted in white supremacy," Biden wrote. "We cannot ignore it. We must confront the spread of hate-fueled violence in every form."
U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, on Tuesday released the following statement concerning the second anniversary:
“Two years ago, the beautiful border community of El Paso endured a horrific, hate-fueled mass shooting that killed 23 innocent souls, injured 22, and changed our lives forever. Today, our hearts remain broken as we remember the victims, survivors, and all those impacted by the deadliest targeted attack against Latinos in modern American history.
“As El Pasoans heal, and demonstrate time and again their strength and resilience, I am determined to continue honoring the victims and survivors with action and ensuring our nation never forgets this tragedy.”
Despite championing the open carry bill that passed the Texas Legislature during the regular 2021 session, Gov. Abbott released a statement Tuesday that claims the executive orders he issued in the wake of the mass shooting will go a long way toward preventing another such tragedy:
"Two years ago today, a heinous and senseless act of violence destroyed countless lives in the El Paso community. As we dealt with the aftermath of the horrific violence and overwhelming grief, we also saw the true spirit of what it means to be a Texan.
"People from every corner of the Lone Star State banded together to support and uplift El Pasoans during their time of loss. And together as a state, we stepped up to protect our communities and prevent future tragedies. Following the shootings in El Paso and Odessa, I issued eight executive orders directing state law enforcement to enhance anti-mass violence measures, convened the Texas Safety Commission to identify any shortcomings in our systems, and highlighted DPS’ safe gun storage campaign.
"A recommendation from the Texas Safety Action report led to legislation passed this recent legislative session that was championed by Senator Blanco, Representatives Ortega, Fierro, Ordaz Perez, Moody, and Gonzalez. Senator Blanco’s bill increases the penalty to a state jail felony for those who lie during a federal background check that are already prohibited from owning a gun. We also appropriated funding to promote the statewide safe gun storage campaign through 2023. It’s a good start, one that we all look forward to building on each session with the legislature.
"Today, and every day, we remember and honor the lives of those cut short that day. And we strive each and every day to create a safer and brighter future for all in the Lone Star State."
Officials in El Paso will unveil a garden Tuesday that is meant to bring healing.
Much like the first anniversary of the shooting, many of the events honoring those slain will again be affected by precautions for the coronavirus pandemic. The dedication of the healing garden — in a county park space dedicated to quiet reflection among water and plants — will be closed to the public. Victims’ families and officials will take part in the ceremony, which will be livestreamed.
Another socially distanced observance will include a luminaria drive-thru. Luminarias are traditional lanterns made from paper bags, sand, and candles or LED lights.
Last week, the man accused in the shooting had his court hearing postponed due to COVID.
His hearing was originally set for Aug. 3, via ZOOM, but has now been scheduled to Nov. 18 at 2 p.m. The court is currently facing a heavy backlog of criminal jury trials due to the pandemic and needs that ZOOM video conference to be vacated.
According to court documents, the parties have requested a 90-day continuance for further investigation and defense preparation.
Both parties are required to file a status report every 30 days if there are any developments in the case until the scheduled hearing.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.