ALLEN, Texas − Authorities were picking through shattered glass and shell casings at an outdoor mall in the Dallas suburb of Allen on Sunday, hours after a gunman’s rampage left eight victims and the gunman dead and three more people clinging to life.
Amid the chaos as hundreds of shoppers at Allen Premium Outlets scrambled for cover Saturday, a police officer on an unrelated call heard the gunshots and raced to the scene, Allen Police Chief Brian Harvey said.
“He heard gunshots, located the gunshots, located the shooter, neutralized the shooter, neutralized the threat,” Harvey said at a briefing late Saturday.
The gunman was identified Sunday as Mauricio Garcia, 33, according to three law enforcement officials who spoke to The Associated Press. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss details of an ongoing investigation. One of the officials said Garcia had been staying at a nearby motel. The official said investigators have been searching the motel and a home in the Dallas area connected to the suspect.
President Joe Biden tweeted Sunday that the assailant wore tactical gear and was armed with an AR-15-style rifle. He thanked first responders who acted “quickly and courageously” but said such attacks had become shockingly familiar.
“Once again, Congress must send me a bill banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines,” Biden wrote. “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.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott dismissed gun control legislation as a “quick solution” that won’t solve the problem, telling Fox News Sunday that addressing mental health issues is the long-term solution.
Six victims and the gunman died at the scene, authorities said. Nine people were transported to regional hospitals, where two died a short time later, police said. Three people remained hospitalized in critical condition Sunday.
∙ Harvey said he believed the shooter acted alone and asked that anyone who witnessed the attacks or had video from the scene contact police.
∙ Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas described the shooting as “another horrific tragedy in our country.” Mayorkas, speaking on Face the Nation, said he spoke with the governor and mayor and that state and local authorities were leading the investigation.
∙ Biden ordered flags flown at half-staff until May 11.
∙ A vigil was scheduled for 5 p.m. local time Sunday at the Cottonwood Creek Baptist Church in Allen.
Police used patrol cars to hustle wounded to hospitals
Steven Spainhouer said he raced to the scene after his son called from the mall to say shots were being fired. Spainhouer told CBS News he arrived before any first responders, and while a handful of people around him were recording videos, he tried to save lives. Some were so badly hurt they had to be loaded into police cars because ambulances would not have arrived fast enough.
“I was on the phone with 911 and I was telling them we have a mass casualty incident,” he said. “The first girl I walked up to was crouched down covering her head in the bushes, so I felt for a pulse, pulled her head to the side and she had no face.”
‘It takes your sense of safety away’
Katie Shi, who lives with her husband and two children in Allen about a mile away from the scene, said the outdoor outlet mall is a frequent go-to place for he family. They had just purchased a pair of shoes for her 7-year-old son at the Nike outlet, she said Sunday.
On Saturday afternoon, Shi, 39, had been out running errands when she passed the mall on the way home and noticed the heavy police presence. By the time she got home to her relieved husband, the shooting was all over the news and there were helicopters in the skies overhead. While Shi and her family are safe, it’s still scary, she said, not to know whether any of her children’s classmates may have been affected
“Having it happen in your hometown, where you go to church, where your kids go to school, where you do your shopping – it takes your sense of safety away,” she said.
Shi says she knows the gun issue can be polarizing, but she finds it bewildering that after so many mass shootings in the U.S., “life just keeps going and we don’t pause to say, ‘let’s do something.’ No one needs to have automatic weapons.”
The attack continues a troubling trend of mass shootings across the nation and in Texas. It comes a week after a gunman opened fire on neighbors in Cleveland, Texas, killing five people including a 9-year-old boy. Last May, a gunman in Uvalde, Texas, shot his grandmother before driving to an elementary and opening fire, killing 19 students and two teachers before being killed by police.
James Alan Fox, a professor of Criminology, Law & Public Policy at Northeastern who has studied mass killings for 40 years, says 2023 has been the worst year in terms of mass killings “since at least 2006 and probably ever.”
“I’ve not seen anything like this,” Fox said. “We have more guns in the hands of Americans. Gun sales have skyrocketed since COVID. There’s a lot of divisiveness in this country, and people suffering emotionally and economically since the pandemic.”
The shooting brought the customary statements of sympathy and support from state and local officials. Mayor Ken Fulk issued a statement promising full support to families of the victims. He said Allen is a “proud and safe city” making the attack more shocking.
“We are a strong and caring community,” Fulk said. “We want all of the victims and their families impacted by this tragedy to know that we will wrap our arms around you, and we are here for you.”
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said he and wife Heidi were “praying for the victims.” Gov. Greg Abbott, who like Cruz has consistently supported easing gun restrictions, pledged to ensure “all needed assistance and resources” would be swiftly deployed.
“Our hearts are with the people of Allen, Texas tonight during this unspeakable tragedy,” Abbott said in a statement.
Texas state Sen. Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat who represents Uvalde, took aim on social media at lawmakers who resist gun reform.
“There is a special place in hell for people who watch all this happen and choose to do nothing. #bloodontheirhands,” he tweeted.
What happened at the Allen Premium Outlets mall outside Dallas?
Police and witnesses said a gunman parked a gray Honda Accord outside the mall about 30 miles from downtown Dallas at around 3:30 p.m. Saturday. The man began shooting people walking on sidewalks outside the mall, a popular shopping spot with many upscale outlets such as Brooks Brothers, Calvin Klein and Ann Taylor.
Dashcam video circulating online showed the gunman getting out of a car and starting to shoot. More than three dozen shots could be heard as the vehicle recording the video drove away.
Pretzel stand employee Maxwell Gum, 16, described a stampede of shoppers as he and others sheltered in a storage room.
“We started running. Kids were getting trampled,” Gum said. “My co-worker picked up a 4-year-old girl and gave her to her parents.”
Fontayne Payton, 35, was at H&M when he heard gunshots through his headphones. People in the store ushered the group into the fitting rooms and then a lockable back room, he said. When they were given the all-clear to leave, Payton saw the store had broken windows and a trail of blood to the door. Outside, Payton saw bodies.
“I pray it wasn’t kids, but it looked like kids,” he said. “It broke me when I walked out to see that.”
Witnesses told WFAA-TV the shooter was dressed in all black. They said the shooting take place near Fatburger restaurant and in front of the H&M outlet. H&M issued a statement saying all its employees were safe and that counseling will be provided to any who request it.
Max Weiss, 18, told CNN he was working in the mall when he heard gunshots for as long as three minutes. He said he and other employees and customers locked the front door to the store and huddled in the stock room. He described the scene as “anxious, tense and terrifying” and said the group waited nearly two hours for officers to come into the store and escort them out of the parking lot area with their arms in the air.
Mass killings are happening with staggering frequency in the United States this year: an average of about one a week, according to an analysis of the Associated Press/USA TODAY/Northeastern University mass killing database. So far there have been 22 mass killings in the U.S. in 2023.
The Gun Violence Archive says the Texas mass shooting is the 200th in the nation this year and the 12th in May. Mass shootings, defined as four or more people shot, differ from mass killings, defined as four or more people killed.
Contributing: The Associated Press