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‘Multiple fatalities’ after shooting at El Paso Walmart

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PHOTO: News 8’s El Paso sister station KTSM

As many as 18 people were shot and at least one suspect was in custody after a mass shooting at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart on Saturday morning, officials said.

A spokesperson for El Paso Mayor Dee Margo confirmed to ABC News that there were “multiple fatalities” from the shooting.

Shortly before 3 p.m. local time, El Paso Police Department Sgt. Robert Gomez said that “we have ruled out multiple shooters,” adding that “we have no information … about what the motive is.”

At 12:11 p.m. local time, the El Paso Police Department issued a tweet that said in part, “We have multi reports of multiple shooters.”

Area residents were urged by local law enforcement to avoid the area north of the I-10 highway area in east El Paso.

“They think things are basically under control for the time being,” Margo told CNN.

The Walmart is located at the Cielo Vista Mall, one of the city’s most popular malls, particularly among Mexican tourists who cross the U.S. border to shop there before returning to Mexico.

Walmart issued a statement about the shooting on the retailer’s Twitter account.

“We’re in shock over the tragic events at Cielo Vista Mall in El Paso,” the statement said. “We’re praying for the victims, the community & our associates, as well as the first responders. We’re working closely with law enforcement & will update as appropriate.”

Mistey Garcia, 33, an employee at a Hooters restaurant in the Cielo Vista Mall, told ABC News in a telephone interview that “we’re all pretty nervous and scared. We’re kind of hoping and sending our prayers down to everyone at Walmart.”

Garcia said no one at Hooters had been briefed directly by law enforcement – as they’re locked in the restaurant – about whether the shooting is unfolding in or near Walmart, and no restaurant employee directly heard gunshots.

“So far everything’s blocked off, we are locked in,” she said. “We have police, border patrol, ambulances, fire trucks all coming down the road. There are ambulances everywhere.”

Garcia said there are “a couple customers” who are being ushered into the back of the restaurant by management and told to shelter in place.

The first tweet from the El Paso Police Department’s Twitter account came in at 11:03 a.m. local time. A second tweet reiterating the danger was issued at 11:29 a.m. and a third, announcing that the mall is closed due to police activity, was issued one minute later.

At 11:35 a.m, the Dallas office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) issued a tweet saying ATF agents were responding as well.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a tweet that the state’s Department of Public Safety is responding to assist “local law enforcement & federal authorities to bring this tragedy to the swiftest and safest possible conclusion.”

Congresswoman Veronica Escobar, who represents Texas’s 16th Congressional District, headquartered in El Paso, tweeted that she is “utterly heartbroken by the developing news in El Paso.”

President Donald Trump has been briefed on the shooting and is monitoring the situation, according to White House Deputy Press Secretary Steven Groves.

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke told reporters he had spoken to the mayor of El Paso.

“I just ask for everyone’s strength for El Paso right now, everyone’s resolve to make sure that this does not continue to happen in this country,” he said. “But I’ll tell you, El Paso is the strongest place in the world.”

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