Allen mall shooting: three children among the dead as police probe suspected gunman's white supremacy links
The gunman has been named as Mauricio Garcia and was reportedly wearing a Right Wing Death Squad patch
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A three-year-old boy and his parents and two young sister were among the victims of a shooting at a shopping centre near Dallas, which has left police probing the suspected gunman's links to white supremacist movements.
Suspected gunman Mauricio Garcia, 33, who is believed to have killed eight people at a Texas shopping mall before he was shot dead by a police officer. Seven other people were injured, three of them critically, in the attack, near the suburban Allen Premier Outlets after the shootings on Saturday (6 May).
The Texas Department of Public Safety identified Kyu Song Cho, 37, and his wife Cindy Cho, 35, as two of the dead, as well as their three-year-old son. Their other son was among the injured.
Cox Elementary School pupils Daniela and Sofia Mendoza were also killed, and have been remembered as “the kindest, most thoughtful students with smiles that could light up any room,” by principal Krista Wilson in a letter to parents.
A security guard, Christian LaCour, 20, was also killed, as Aishwarya Thatikonda, 26, from Hyderabad, India, who worked as a civil engineer at Perfect General Contractors. The eighth victim as Elio Cumana-Rivas, 32.
A law enforcement official earlier told The Associated Press federal agents had been reviewing social media accounts and believed Garcia had expressed an interest in neo-Nazi views and had a patch on his chest reading RWDS – an acronym for Right Wing Death Squad - which is popular among extremists and white supremacy groups.
The Independent reports Garcia was a security guard, and a former US Army trainee. Garcia was terminated from the US Army in June 2008, three months into training without completing entry training, US Army Public Affairs Spokeswoman Heather J Hagan told the paper.
After that, he became a security guard, most recently working for an aluminium supply company. During this time, Garcia underwent firearms proficiency training as recently as 2018, according to the Texas Online Private Security database.
His licence as a commissioned security officer was suspended in April 2020, the Independent said, although it was unclear why his security guard licence was suspended, or whether he had any connection with the mall where the shooting took place.
Gunman used AR-15
Dashcam video that circulated online showed a gunman step out of a vehicle outside the shopping centre and immediately start shooting at people on the pavement. More than three dozen shots could be heard as the vehicle recording the video drove off.
Allen Police chief Brian Harvey declined on Sunday (7 May) evening to answer questions, saying: “We actually don’t have a lot.”
Further law enforcement officials said investigators had searched a home connected to the suspect and a Dallas motel near an interstate where Garcia had been staying where they found multiple weapons, including an AR-15-style rifle and a handgun.
Biden calls for tighter gun laws
In a statement, President Joe Biden said the assailant wore tactical gear and fired an AR-15-style weapon. He urged Congress to enact tighter restrictions on firearms and ammunition.
“Such an attack is too shocking to be so familiar. And yet, American communities have suffered roughly 200 mass shootings already this year, according to leading counts,” said Mr Biden, who ordered flags lowered to half-staff. Republicans in Congress, he said, “cannot continue to meet this epidemic with a shrug”.
The shooting was the latest attack to contribute to the unprecedented pace of mass killings this year in the US which has seen an average of about one mass killing per week.
Maxwell Gum, a 16-year-old shift leader at Wetzel’s Pretzels, was on his lunch break when a family with limited English ran into the back of his store, urgently telling him “Gun! Shoot!” as the sound of gunfire could be heard in the background.
He took the family into the long delivery corridor that runs behind the shops, hoping it would be a safe place to hide. They found chaos. “There were probably like 300 people pouring in from all the different doors,” the teenager said. “People are freaking out, we’re hearing screaming.”
Emergency services issue statements
Allen Fire Chief Jonathan Boyd said seven people including the gunman died at the scene. Nine victims were taken to area hospitals, but two of them died. Three of the victims were in a critical condition on Saturday (6 May) evening, Mr Boyd said, and four were in a stable condition.
Officials received reports of gunshots from the Allen Premium Outlets at around 3.40pm. Medical City Healthcare, a Dallas-area hospital system, said in a written statement it was treating eight people between the ages of five and 61.
An Allen Police officer was in the area on an unrelated call when he heard gunshots at Allen Premium Outlets at 3.36pm, the police department wrote on Facebook.
“The officer engaged the suspect and neutralised the threat. He then called for emergency personnel. Nine victims were transported to local hospitals by Allen Fire Department,” the agency wrote in the Facebook post. “There is no longer an active threat.”
“It was so loud, it sounded like it was right outside”
A crowd of hundreds of people who had been shopping stood outside, across the street from the mall, on Saturday evening. Officers circulated among them asking if anyone had seen what happened.
Fontayne Payton, 35, was at H&M when he heard the sound of gunshots through the headphones he was wearing. “It was so loud, it sounded like it was right outside,” Mr Payton said.
People in the store scattered before employees ushered the group into the fitting rooms and then a lockable back room, he said. When they were given the all-clear to leave, Mr Payton saw the store had broken windows and a trail of blood to the door. Discarded sandals and bloodied clothes lay nearby.
Once outside, Mr Payton said he saw bodies. “I pray it wasn’t kids, but it looked like kids,” he said. The bodies were covered in white towels, slumped over bags on the ground, he said.
“It broke me when I walked out to see that,” he said. Further away, he saw the body of a heavyset man wearing all black. He assumed it was the gunman, Mr Payton said, because unlike the other bodies it had not been covered up.
“We just heard a lot of loud popping”
Tarakram Nunna, 25, and Ramakrishna Mullapudi, 26, said they saw what appeared to be three people lying motionless on the ground, including one who appeared to be a police officer and another who appeared to be a mall security guard. Another shopper, Sharkie Mouli, 24, said he hid in a Banana Republic store during the shooting.
As he left, he saw what appeared to be an unconscious police officer lying next to another unconscious person outside the outlet store. “I have seen his gun lying right next to him and a guy who is like passing out right next to him,” Mr Mouli said.
Stan and Mary Ann Greene were browsing in the Columbia sportswear store when the shooting started. “We had just gotten in, just a couple minutes earlier, and we just heard a lot of loud popping,” Mary Ann Greene told AP.
Employees immediately rolled down the security gate and took everyone to the rear of the store until police arrived and escorted them out, the Greenes said. Eber Romero was at the Under Armour store when a cashier mentioned there had been a shooting.
As he left the store, Mr Romero said, the mall appeared empty, and all the shops had their security gates down. That is when he started seeing broken glass and people who had been shot on the ground.
Video shared on social media showed people running through a car park while gunfire could be heard. More than 30 police cruisers with lights flashing were blocking an entrance to the shopping centre, with multiple ambulances on the scene.
A live aerial broadcast from the news station showed armoured trucks and other law enforcement vehicles stationed outside the sprawling outdoor mall. Ambulances from several neighbouring cities responded to the scene.