El Paso opens heal­ing cen­tre for city in grief

Mean­while, Trump an­nounces his visit, caus­ing con­tro­versy

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - Canada & World - ASTRID GALVAN AND PAUL J. WE­BER

EL PASO, TEXAS — El Paso opened a grief cen­tre on Tues­day to help peo­ple cope with last week­end’s mass shoot­ing at a Wal­mart, in which 22 peo­ple, nearly all with Latino last names, were killed and many oth­ers were wounded.

The cen­tre opened a day be­fore Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump was due to visit the border city, much to the cha­grin of some Democrats and other res­i­dents who say his fiery rhetoric has fos­tered the kind of anti-im­mi­grant ha­tred that may have mo­ti­vated Satur­day’s at­tack.

El Paso’s po­lice chief, Greg Allen, said in­ves­ti­ga­tors be­lieve the sus­pected gun­man, 21-yearold Pa­trick Cru­sius, posted an anti-im­mi­grant screed that ap­peared on­line shortly be­fore the at­tack. Cru­sius is be­ing held on cap­i­tal mur­der charges, though fed­eral prose­cu­tors are also con­sid­er­ing charg­ing Cru­sius with hate crimes.

On Mon­day, Cru­sius was as­signed a vet­eran pub­lic de­fender from San An­to­nio, Mark Stevens. Stevens didn’t im­me­di­ately re­ply to a re­quest for com­ment left Tues­day.

At least one wounded vic­tim re­mained in crit­i­cal con­di­tion on Tues­day. An­other, Oc­tavio Ramiro Lizarde, re­called hear­ing gun­shots ring out as he stood in line wait­ing to open a bank ac­count in­side the Wal­mart. He said he and his 15-year-old nephew, Javier Ro­driguez, tried to hide in a man­ager’s back of­fice.

“The shooter came, I guess he heard us. He shot him,” Ramiro Lizarde said at a news con­fer­ence at Del Sol Med­i­cal Cen­ter, where he has been treated for a gun­shot wound to the foot. His nephew did not sur­vive.

Within hours of the grief cen­tre open­ing, Demo­cratic Rep. Veron­ica Es­co­bar said vic­tims’ fam­i­lies were al­ready in­side, where ser­vices in­cluded coun­selling, travel as­sis­tance and fi­nan­cial sup­port.

“We’ve got to make sure that folks have ac­cess to men­tal health care. There’s go­ing to be a lot of trauma in our com­mu­nity, a lot of chil­dren saw things that no hu­man be­ing should see. And so we’re go­ing to do every­thing pos­si­ble,” said Es­co­bar, who is from El Paso.

Trump on Wed­nes­day was also ex­pected to visit Day­ton, Ohio, where an­other gun­man killed nine peo­ple and wounded many oth­ers in an at­tack only hours af­ter the El Paso mass shoot­ing. White House coun­sel­lor Kellyanne Con­way re­counted vis­its Trump has made to griev­ing com­mu­ni­ties af­ter mass shoot­ings in Park­land, Fla., and Las Ve­gas.

“He goes, try­ing to help heal com­mu­ni­ties, meet­ing with those who are in­jured, those loved ones who have sur­vived, the in­no­cents who have lost their lives so sense­lessly and trag­i­cally,” Con­way said.

El Paso’s Re­pub­li­can mayor, Dee Margo, an­nounced Trump’s visit at a news con­fer­ence Mon­day evening, pre-emp­tively de­fend­ing the de­ci­sion to wel­come the pres­i­dent while ac­knowl­edg­ing there would be blow­back.

Margo has pre­vi­ously crit­i­cized Trump for sug­gest­ing that El Paso, which had fewer homi­cides in all of 2017 than the death toll in Satur­day’s at­tack, was a dan­ger­ous and unsafe place.

“This is not a po­lit­i­cal visit as he had be­fore, and he is pres­i­dent of the United States,” Margo said, re­fer­ring to a cam­paign rally Trump held in Fe­bru­ary. “So in that ca­pac­ity, I will ful­fil my obli­ga­tions as mayor of El Paso to be with the pres­i­dent and dis­cuss what­ever our needs are in this com­mu­nity and hope that if we are ex­press­ing specifics, that we can get him to come through for us.”

Es­co­bar and Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Beto O’Rourke, who was a con­gress­man for six years, both said Trump wouldn’t be wel­come in their home­town of El Paso.

“This pres­i­dent, who helped cre­ate the ha­tred that made Satur­day’s tragedy pos­si­ble, should not come to El Paso. We do not need more di­vi­sion. We need to heal. He has no place here,” O’Rourke tweeted.

Allen, the po­lice chief, said 15 vic­tims re­mained hos­pi­tal­ized as of Mon­day evening, in­clud­ing two who were in crit­i­cal con­di­tion.

Au­thor­i­ties say Cru­sius is from the af­flu­ent Dallas sub­urb of Allen and drove more than 10 hours to El Paso be­fore the at­tack. The screed that was posted on­line be­fore the at­tack rails against an in­flux of His­pan­ics, say­ing they will re­place ag­ing white vot­ers and could swing Texas and the White House to the Democrats.

CALLA KESSLER NEW YORK TIMES

Laura Ca­ballero, right, em­braces a fel­low com­mu­nity mem­ber at a makeshift memo­rial at the Wal­mart in El Paso, Texas. The city opened a grief cen­tre on Tues­day to help peo­ple cope, of­fer­ing coun­selling, travel as­sis­tance and fi­nan­cial sup­port.

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