Remembering The 22 People Killed In Attack At An El Paso Shopping Center
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
I'm David Greene in El Paso, Texas. The scene in this city - it's just too familiar, isn't it? Members of the community are attending vigils, preparing funerals. Their loved ones were murdered over the weekend in a mass shooting at a Walmart. And we're beginning to learn more about the 22 people who were killed. They ranged in age from 15 to 90. Thirteen were American citizens and at least seven were from Mexico. Mallory Falk is a reporter for NPR member station KERA, and she's with me here in El Paso. Hi, Mallory.
MALLORY FALK, BYLINE: Hi, David.
GREENE: So as you listen to police starting to share more details, what should we know? In particular, it sounds like we're beginning to learn why this shooter was at a Walmart.
FALK: Police Chief Greg Allen said the suspect purchased his gun legally near his hometown in Allen. It was a 7.62 caliber rifle. And Allen says the suspect drove 10 to 11 hours to El Paso. And he said the suspect got here and was lost in a neighborhood and ended up at a Walmart because he was hungry. The chief said the suspect has cooperated from the beginning and appears to be in a state of shock and confusion.
GREENE: I just keep thinking about the fact that he - that the reason he ended up at the Walmart was because he needed food.
GREENE: So you went last night to a vigil. And this was for one of the really young victims of the shooting. Can you just take us there, as best you can?
FALK: The vigil is for Javier Amir Rodriguez. And he's the youngest victim of the shooting, just 15 years old. He was supposed to be starting his sophomore year of high school. And as you can imagine, there was a lot of sorrow at the vigil. Javier's parents and sister didn't speak, but they released 22 doves - one for Javier, followed by 21 for the other victims. I spoke with several of Javier's friends, and they described an energetic soccer fanatic who was also a bit of a jokester. One of his friends said Javier liked to tell jokes and then make sure you laughed at those jokes...
GREENE: (Laughter) Waiting for you to respond, waiting for you to smile.
FALK: Yeah, exactly. He'd kind of give you a hard time until you cracked that smile. And during the vigil, several of his classmates and former soccer coaches spoke, as well as the superintendent of his school district, Juan Martinez. And he got very emotional.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
JUAN MARTINEZ: Javier did not deserve to be taken away from his family. Javier did not take - deserve to be taken away from his friends. Javier did not deserve to be taken away from his school. And Javier did not deserve to be taken away from all of us.
FALK: After the speeches, his teammates circled up, and they embraced each other. And it's clear this community will be grappling with his death for a long time to come.
GREENE: Well, another reality in this community right now, I mean, you have more than two dozen people injured in this attack, in hospitals in some cases, as I understand it, fighting for their lives. What is their condition, as best we know right now?
FALK: There was a press conference yesterday at Del Sol Medical Center, and that's where the more grievously injured patients were taken. Officials said as of yesterday afternoon, a couple of those patients were discharged, and one was transferred to another local hospital. Several remain at Del Sol, one of them in critical condition. And one doctor, who was choked up at times, said these patients have devastating wounds. And of course, at this press conference, we learned that two victims had died at the hospital, raising the death toll to 22.
GREENE: And this is your community. You live here. I'm just a visitor. But even for a visitor, you get the sense that there is a tremendous amount of pride in this city.
FALK: There is. And there's really this insistence that this event is not going to define El Paso, that El Paso is a warm, welcoming, tightknit community and this shooting from someone outside of the community is not going to change that.
GREENE: Mallory Falk reports from member station KERA. Thanks so much, Mallory - really appreciate it.
FALK: You're welcome.
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