S. Texas congressman: Hispanic border towns must ‘be vigilant’ after El Paso shooting

Border Crime

McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, a Democrat from Texas whose 34th congressional district spans from Brownsville to east of San Antonio, told Border Report that after this weekend’s mass shooting in El Paso, there are real fears of repeat acts occurring at other border towns in South Texas.

“I wish that we could say ‘Don’t be concerned because we have a long history of being safe,’ but so did El Paso up until 3 days ago,” Vela told Border Report via phone on Tuesday from North Carolina where he gave a speech and was heading to catch a flight.

Gloria Garces kneels Tuesday in front of crosses at a makeshift memorial near the scene of a mass shooting at a shopping complex in El Paso, Texas on Aug. 3, 2019. The border city jolted by a weekend massacre at a Walmart absorbed more grief Monday as the death toll climbed to 22 and prepared for a visit from President Donald Trump on Wednesday. (AP Photo/John Locher)

“We never would have imagined that an incident like this would take place in El Paso and this guy went from Allen, Texas, to go to El Paso … the distance from Dallas to McAllen (Texas) is about the same,” Rep. Vela said. “Why did he choose El Paso vs. the Valley? It’s horrible to think about but I think we’re at a point now where we’ll have to be vigilant.”

A woman kneels beside a makeshift memorial, Monday, Aug. 5, 2019, at the site of a mass shooting over the weekend at a shopping complex, in El Paso, Texas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Twenty-two people were killed and 27 injured after a gunman opened fire at a Walmart at a mall in El Paso on Saturday morning, police officials said Monday evening as they released a list of the victims names.

The alleged shooter is a 21-year-old from Allen, Texas, who purportedly published an online manifesto professing “This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”

‘Bearing upon peoples’ minds’

South Texas is home to several border towns where all of the populations have a Hispanic majority. Border Report spoke to several community leaders and law enforcement officials from McAllen to Brownsville. And, while none would elaborate on specific security steps being taken following the El Paso shootings, all did express concern and said the incident remains top of mind.

“What happened in El Paso certainly is bearing upon peoples’ minds,” Vela said.

“Are we watching what went on and are aware of it? The answer is certainly a definitive yes,” McAllen Police Chief Victor Rodriguez said.

Members of the Americas High School football team from El Paso carry an “El Paso Strong” sign into place near the site of a mass shooting over the weekend at a shopping complex, Monday, Aug. 5, 2019, in El Paso, Texas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Of particular concern is this weekend’s state-wide Tax-Free Shopping Weekend, which runs Friday through Sunday. This annual event typically draws hundreds of thousands of shoppers out each year, especially families, which take advantage of the financial savings. Backpacks, clothing, shoes and school supplies that cost under $100 each will be tax-exempt and there are concerns that crowds could attract a copy-cat shooter.

The shootings in El Paso occurred on a busy Saturday morning when many families were stocking up on school supplies and equipment.

“I just think everybody needs to look at the kind of security they are providing these days. Because it (the El Paso incident) shows it could happen anywhere,” McAllen Mayor Jim Darling said.

McAllen Mayor Jim Darling is seen on Aug. 2, 2019, at McAllen City Hall. (Border Report Photo/Sandra Sanchez).

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