Authorities investigating the mass shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso city, which also wounded 26 people, as a possible "hate crime," the city's police chief says.

Law enforcement agencies respond to an active shooter at a WalMart near Cielo Vista Mall in El Paso, Texas, Saturday, August 3, 2019.
Law enforcement agencies respond to an active shooter at a WalMart near Cielo Vista Mall in El Paso, Texas, Saturday, August 3, 2019. (AFP)

At least 20 people were killed in a shooting on Saturday in a busy shopping area in the Texas border town of El Paso, and a 21-year-old man was taken into custody, law enforcement officials said.

Twenty-six people were wounded, El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen said, in a mass shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso.

A white male suspect Patrick Crusius from a suburb of Dallas surrendered to police outside the store after the rampage.

"Right now we have a manifesto from this individual that indicates to some degree he has a nexus to potential hate crime," Allen said at a news conference.

"On a day that would have been a normal day for someone to leisurely go shopping turned into one of the most deadly days in the history of Texas," Governor Greg Abbott said, announcing the death toll.

El Paso, on the border with Mexico, has a majority Hispanic population.

It was the second fatal shooting in less than a week at a Walmart store in the US and comes after a mass shooting in California last weekend.

Most of the victims were shot at a Walmart near the Cielo Vista Mall, El Paso police Sergeant Robert Gomez said at a news conference. 

He said the store was packed with as many as 3,000 people during the busy back-to-school shopping season.

"This is unprecedented in El Paso," said Gomez, who added that many of the injured had life-threatening injuries.

We spoke with analyst Jason Nichols about mass shooting scourge and gun lobbyists in the US.

Over a dozen casualties 

Dan Patrick, the lieutenant governor of Texas, confirmed that there had been up to 20 casualties in the shooting at the Cielo Vista Mall after local television networks had reported similar numbers.

"We have between 15 and 20 casualties, we don't know the number of fatalities," Patrick told Fox News.

El Paso Mayor Dee Margo acknowledged that there had been a number of deaths after gunfire was first heard around 10 am.

"I can't confirm the number of fatalities. But there are fatalities," he told CNN.

"It is a tragedy and I don't want to comment until I have full information. It is a tragedy, I'm just so torn up about it."

Margo said three suspects were in custody, though police spokesman Sergeant Robert Gomez said he could confirm only one suspect in custody at the moment.

We spoke with Michael Pregent of El Paso, a senior fellow at Hudson Institute, about gun violence in the US after Texas shooting.

'He was just shooting randomly'

A witness who gave her name as Vanessa said she had just pulled into the parking lot at Walmart and "all of a sudden you heard what sounded like fireworks, really loud fireworks."

"You could hear the pops, one right after another and at that point, as I was turning, I saw a lady, seemed she was coming out of Walmart, headed to her car. She had her groceries in her cart and I saw her just fall," she told Fox News.

The witness told Fox that she had seen one man open fire wearing what appeared to be combat fatigues.

"He was wearing a black t-shirt, camo colored pants. He was wearing something to cover his ears, like headphones, really thick ones.

"He was carrying a dark rifle and he was just pointing at people and just shooting and, yeah, the last thing I saw, he shot somebody that was in a corner."

After seeing the woman fall in the parking lot, "that's when I thought, okay, this is not – these aren't fireworks ... He was just shooting randomly. It wasn't to any particular person. It was any that would cross paths."

President Donald Trump called the shooting "terrible." 

It has been a particularly bad week for gun violence in the United States.

Two people died and a police officer was wounded Tuesday at a Walmart in Mississippi.

Last Sunday a 19-year-old gunman opened fire at a food festival in northern California, killing three, including two children.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies