Witnesses: chaos, panic prevailed during mass shooting at Texas mall
Washington, May 7 (EFE).- Witnesses said that chaos, panic and confusion prevailed within an open-air mall in Allen, Texas, on the weekend when an as yet unidentified man opened fired with an assault rifle and killed at least eight people before being shot dead by police responding by chance to another emergency in the area.
“There are many … people in our community tonight who are hurting, whose lives have been shattered and who need and deserve our collective prayers,” said one of Texas’s Republican congressmen, Jeff Leach, said Saturday night.
One day after the mass shooting in the city near Dallas, the identity and/or motivations of the shooter are still not known.
At least eight people were killed, including a 5-year-old boy, and seven more were wounded to varying degrees.
It is also not yet known how many minutes the man spent carrying out the massacre at Allen Premium Outlets, which was jammed with shoppers on Saturday afternoon when he opened fire.
What is known, however, is that hundreds of people were on hand browsing or making purchases when the shooting erupted. Many of them took shelter anywhere they could and were only evacuated hours later with their hands clasped behind their heads from the site by police after they secured the scene.
Although the attacker died shortly after he began shooting, the panic he unleashed lasted for hours at the mall and even led to rumors that there might be another shooter in the area, although that idea was ultimately disproved.
According to Allen Police Chief Brian Harvey, the shooter was gunned down by a local police officer who heard the gunfire and was at the scene to deal with an unrelated incident.
“He heard gunshots, went to the gunshots, engaged the suspect, and neutralized the suspect,” Harvey said of the police officer who killed the shooter, adding that police believe that the attacker acted alone.
Media outlets including CNN on Sunday published photos of the alleged shooter after he was killed wearing a bulletproof vest, in possession of ammunition clips. Beside his body can be seen an AR-15 assault rifle, the most popular such military-style weapon.
According to a White House official, President Joe Biden was receiving timely updates about the incident, was closely monitoring the situation and is in contact with law enforcement and local officials to provide support.
Biden on Sunday declared a five days of national mourning after the massacre, saying that he was making the declaration “as a mark of respect for the victims of the senseless acts of violence perpetrated” and – in a communique – ordered that the US flag be flown at half-staff at the White House and all public buildings and sites, military bases, embassies and other US government facilities abroad.
“Such an attack is too shocking to be so familiar,” Biden’s statement read. “And yet, American communities have suffered roughly 200 mass shootings already this year, according to leading counts. More than 14,000 of our fellow citizens have lost their lives, credible estimates show.”
“The leading cause of death for American kids is gun violence,” he noted.
“Once again, I ask Congress to send me a bill banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Enacting universal background checks. Requiring safe storage. Ending immunity for gun manufacturers. I will sign it immediately. We need nothing less to keep our streets safe,” Biden said.
Allen Fire Department Chief Jonathan Boyd said Saturday night that after the emergency call was received about an active shooter at the mall, his personnel were dispatched to the site and took nine people to the hospital, two of whom later died of their wounds.
Three of the wounded on Saturday night were reported to be in critical condition and four were in stable condition. Seven of the dead were killed at the mall itself.
According to the BNO news Web site, the shooter arrived at the open-air mall in an automobile, stopped it at a store belonging to the H&M chain, got out of the vehicle and immediately opened fire indiscriminately at people in the area.
After the incident, Texas Republican Gov. Gregg Abbott issued a statement in which he said that he was in contact with the mayor of Allen and had offered full state support, including all necessary assistance and resources.
“Our hearts are with the people of Allen, Texas, tonight during this unspeakable tragedy,” said Abbott.