The Texas Walmart targeted by an alleged racist mass murderer on Saturday was so crowded at the time of the attack that authorities and family members are still struggling to identify all of those who were shot.
City officials told ThinkProgress they will not release the names of those killed until they have been able to contact family members for each. Police announced a 21st fatality Monday after another unnamed victim succumbed to their injuries in a local hospital. [UPDATE: According to reports, there are now 22 confirmed fatalities.]
The massive supercenter was reportedly full when the gunman struck, and the process of identifying victims and reconnecting those who survived with their families has been complex and arduous.
City officials directed those worried for their loved ones to a specially established “family reunification center” at a local middle school. Journalist and El Paso native Richard Parker described the scene there as “an eerily calm thing” despite a crush of law enforcement, medical personnel, and aid workers.
“What I saw was an incredible amount of dignity among the people who had lined up there. They were there to find out the fate of loved ones, whether they were missing or dead or wounded,” Parker told the BBC. “They stood calmly…Either we as Americans have become used to it, or people meet these instances with tremendous dignity.”
By Monday, reporters and family members had identified at least 15 of those killed and several of the wounded. In many cases, the messages confirming a loved one’s death followed hours or days of frantic searching for people who hadn’t turned up to hospital and appeared on the local Medical Examiner’s official running tally of the missing.
Parker recounted speaking with an older man at the reunification center who was looking for a young man later identified as 24-year-old Andre Anchondo. His wife Jordan Anchondo, 25, had already been pronounced dead. The older man showed Parker pictures of their children, one of whom was reportedly grazed by a bullet as Jordan attempted to shield the infant with her body.
On Monday morning, the local Fox affiliate reported that Andre was also among those killed in the attack.
The two had married in 2018. They had reportedly dropped Jordan’s eldest child at cheerleading practice Saturday morning before driving to the Walmart for some back-to-school shopping. Andre had recently opened his own building supply firm in El Paso and was building the young family a house in the hours he could spare from his work growing the new business.
Falling in love with 25-year-old Jordan had changed the young man, his brother Tito told The Washington Post. “She was his support system,” the brother said. “When he met Jordan, it gave him more reason to get on track with his life.”
Similar remembrances trickled out over the weekend as people from around the region went from fearful hope to ghastly certainty.
Arturo Benavides, 60, was finishing up shopping with his wife Patty when the massacre began. She was reportedly bundled into a restroom by someone else as crowds scrambled to get away from the killer. But her husband, who was standing near a self-checkout register near the entrance the gunman used, was not so fortunate.
Family members told reporters that “Turi,” as they called him, “was the person to always give a helping hand, a home to stay, and a meal,” BuzzFeed News reported. He had served in the Army before taking a job driving for the local El Paso bus system.
“He loved each and every one of us in our own ways,” niece Jacklin Luna told the site, after spending the weekend searching for word of Benavides. “Loved oldies on a Sunday morning, sitting out on his chair on the front porch with his dog Milo at his feet.”
The youngest confirmed fatality is 15-year-old Javier Amir Rodriguez, who was gearing up for his sophomore year of high school and another season playing soccer with his friends. Officials from the school district announced plans for a vigil on Monday night after the child was confirmed among the dead. Photographs circulating on social media show him grinning with teammates in matching jerseys.
Elvira Rodriguez, the boy’s aunt, told the Arizona Republic that his family members had visited the middle school reunification center repeatedly over the weekend before putting out pleas for help on social media. They were told he was dead on Sunday morning, as authorities continued identifying bodies as part of their efforts to process the crime scene.
The eldest of the 15 dead identified thus far, 86-year-old Angelina Englisbee, was “the hero of our family,” grandson Jacob Hallberg told BuzzFeed News. She had become the sole breadwinner for seven children suddenly, when her husband died of a heart attack in his late 30s.
At least seven Mexican citizens who’d made the trip across the border to shop that day were also named among the dead by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Numerous Mexican citizens and residents were identified as wounded as well.
Adolfo Cerros Hernández and Sara “Sarita” Esther Regalado lived in Ciudad Juárez, effectively the other half of the binational megalopolis of which El Paso is part. Their children pleaded for news of the pair in a series of posts over the weekend, before learning that each had been killed. “God could not have given me a better mother than my precious aunt,” their niece wrote on Facebook.
Ivan Filiberto Manzano had also come across from Juárez that morning to pick up a delivery. His aunt had made the trip with him but was running a separate errand and did not enter the Walmart, according to multiple reports.
Elsa Mendoza Márquez had been a schoolteacher in Juárez for years. “We will always remember her for the joy she took in life, and for all the love she gave us,” a family member wrote in an online tribute reported by El Paso’s Spanish-language daily newspaper, El Diario. Her husband and their son had decided to wait in the car while she went into the store to shop, the paper reported.
María Eugenia Legarreta had come to El Paso to pick her daughter up from the airport. When she didn’t show up as expected, her family made anxious inquiries and discovered that her phone’s GPS showed she had been near the Walmart. At about midday Sunday, El Diario reports, they were told she was among the dead.
Officials from the Mexican government named a sixth citizen, Gloria Irma Márquez, among the dead as well.
“She’s going to be someone we remember with great affection and love, like she always gave us. Right now we cry for her passing, but one day we will see her again,” a family member wrote of Márquez in a web posting reported by El Diario. “We will keep going, remembering you always as you were: A happy person with a never-ending smile.”
A few of those shot hailed from much farther away.
Forty-five-year-old Mario de Alba and had brought his wife Olivia Mariscal and their daughter Erika four hours north from Chihuaha to buy supplies for the 10-year-old’s upcoming school year. De Alba’s sister told local reporters he was in serious condition after the bullet that struck him from behind left an exit wound in his diaphragm. Olivia and Erika were also in the hospital recovering from unspecified wounds, the sister said.
Jorge Calvillo Garcia had come from Torreón, a city almost 500 miles from El Paso, to visit his son and family. His granddaughter’s soccer team was fundraising outside the Walmart on Saturday. Luis Calvillo, who coaches the team, was reportedly in critical condition in a local hospital as of Sunday afternoon. He and his father had reportedly tried to shield his daughter Emily, 10, and her teammates from the gunfire. The elder Calvillo died.
The high-volume supercenter was apparently a popular location for such fundraising efforts.
Jessica Coca Garcia and her husband Memo Garcia were shot while working a fundraising table at the store to collect donations for their children’s sports team, Jessica’s sister told KWCH television in Wichita, Kansas. Their 5- and 11-year-old children were with them but were not struck by the gunman’s bullets, Jessica’s father told the station. Each of the adults were hit three times, leaving Memo in critical condition as of Sunday. His wife was reportedly in stable condition as of Sunday.
Another young couple, Leo Campos and Maribel Hernandez, had stopped at the Walmart after taking their dog to get groomed. The groomer called Hernandez’s family later in the day because the pair did not return as scheduled. Colleagues from a state teacher’s union posted remembrances of Campos on Facebook, with one saying he’d been a great coworker and “always positive, energetic, and a great friend to all the students.” Another recalled the pair “would light up the room with your joy and love.”
This is a breaking news story and has been updated as more information became available.