‘El Paso Strong’: Public memorial to honor shooting victims

People pray and pay their respects at the makeshift memorial for victims of the shooting that left a total of 22 people dead at the Cielo Vista Mall WalMart (background) in El Paso, Texas, on August 6, 2019. (Photo credit: MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

EL PASO, Texas — Leaders from both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border will gather in El Paso Wednesday night to memorialize the 22 people killed this month when a gunman opened fire at a Walmart in the Texas border city.

The mayors of El Paso and the neighboring Mexican city of Ciudad Juarez will speak, along with religious leaders, at a 7 p.m. memorial service, according to a city spokesman.

“We’re going to be paying tribute and remembering the victims,” said El Paso spokesman Rick Isaias. “We’re letting people know that we are El Paso strong and the city will continue and get through this.”

The ceremony at Southwest University Park will officially commemorate those killed in the largely Latino city by a gunman who police say confessed to driving from the Dallas area to target Mexicans. Most of the dead had Hispanic last names, and eight were Mexican nationals. Nearly two dozen others were injured.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday that the state is adding manpower to gang investigations surrounding white nationalist groups in the wake of the shooting. He also said Texas will create a new domestic terrorism unit to help “root out the extremist ideologies that fuel hatred and violence in our state.”

Abbott and the governor of neighboring Mexican state Javier Corral were among planned speakers for the memorial service the city released later Wednesday.

Isaias said officials do not know how many people wound attend the service, but that the city is planning for a big turnout. The ceremony at the baseball park will be broadcast live to four other locations in El Paso. The city will be handing out drinking water for outdoor events, with temperatures expected to be in the 90s.

Before Wednesday, the city had opened a center to help people with everything from counseling and financial assistance to figuring out how to get vehicles back after the Aug. 3 shooting.

The victims’ loved ones have been marking their passing with vigils and funerals in the U.S. and Mexico since the Aug. 3 massacre.

Authorities said Wednesday they have finished processing the scene at Walmart for evidence. El Paso police said they are returning control of the property to Walmart.

Walmart spokeswoman LeMia Jenkins said the store remains a “secure location with controlled access.” She said a fence will remain around the store’s perimeter and that Walmart is using contracted security guards to prevent trespassing. The company did not say when the store would reopen.

Police say 21-year-old Patrick Crusius was targeting Mexicans when he carried out the shooting. He is charged with capital murder. An online rant investigators have attributed to him speaks of a “Hispanic invasion of Texas” and theories of non-white immigrants replacing whites.

El Paso has long been an important city in Mexican American culture and immigration . It served as a port of entry where immigrants from the interior of Mexico had to come to gain entry into the United States before World War II and is sometimes called the “Ellis Island” of the border.

The city has garnered attention in the last year because of the rapid rise of Central American migrants coming to seek asylum.

On Wednesday, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he wants the United States to extradite Crusius so that he can be tried in Mexico, too.

The two countries have had an arrangement in which a suspect convicted in one country can be immediately extradited for trial in the other, before serving his sentence in either country.

“I am confident that the U.S. government will itself punish this criminal act according to its laws,” Lopez Obrador said in a speech in the southern state of Oaxaca. “If necessary, and in line with international law and with respect for U.S. laws, we will ask this person be tried here, as well, and we will ask for his extradition.”

Continuing coverage, here.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.