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Texas reels after mass shooting, deadly assault with vehicle

By MAY ZHOU in Houston | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-05-09 10:35

Protesters call for gun reform as they demonstrate at the Texas Capitol in Austin, Texas, US on May 8, 2023. [Photo/Agencies] 

Cindy and Kyu Cho took their two children, James, 3, and William, 6, to the Allen Premium Outlets mall for a family outing. Now William is an orphan.

The parents and James were among eight people killed by a gunman on Saturday at the mall in Allen, Texas, north of Dallas. William, who had just celebrated his birthday, also was injured.

Two other children were killed. Fourth grader Daniela Mendoza and her sister, second grader Sofia. Their mother, Ilda, remains in critical condition. Daniela and Sofia's principal, Krista Wilson, described them as "rays of sunshine".

On Sunday, officials identified the gunman, who was killed at the mall by a police officer, as Mauricio Garcia, 33. The motive for the attack remains unclear.

But authorities say he might have been motivated by white supremacism and anti-immigrant sentiment, authorities said. Federal officials found posts expressing white supremacist ideology and neo-Nazi views in his social media accounts, according to The Associated Press. The AP reported that Garcia also had a patch on his chest that read "RWDS", an acronym for "Right Wing Death Squad".

Garcia served for a brief period in the US military but was removed due to concerns about his mental health, a law enforcement source familiar with the investigation told CNN.

It was the second deadliest mass shooting of the year. Not all victims' names were revealed as of Monday, but at least half are Asians, authorities said. A GoFundMe account has been set up for the Cho family, and donations had reached $550,000 as of Monday afternoon.

Texas Democratic lawmakers, frustrated at trying to move gun-control bills in a GOP-dominated Legislature, spoke about the shooting at a news conference in Austin on Monday.

"You have prayed for an answer, you have begged for an answer. The solution is staring you in the face," state Representative Gene Wu said. "At some point, the people blocking the laws that could help prevent these type of tragedies — at some point they take ownership of some of these tragedies."

The mall shooting seemed to have changed the minds of some Texas lawmakers. Hours before a key legislative deadline, a Texas House committee advanced a bill by 8-5 Monday that would raise the minimum age to purchase certain semiautomatic rifles. Despite that, the bill faces an uphill struggle to become state law.

The day after the mall shooting, at around 8:30 am, the driver of a Range Rover SUV ran through red lights and rammed into about 20 migrants waiting at a bus stop in Brownsville, a border city in south Texas. Seven died at the scene, and another died later in the evening, the AP reported. Nine were injured.

Police identified the driver as George Alvarez and said they were trying to determine whether the crash was intentional.

Alvarez has been charged with eight counts of manslaughter, 10 counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and reckless driving. He is being held, Brownsville Police Chief Felix Sauceda said Monday.

Alvarez was seen on a video being pinned down on the ground by a group of people outside a homeless shelter that had been housing migrants, most of them from Venezuela, after he tried to flee the scene of the crash.

Sauceda said the police were investigating reports that Alvarez had yelled anti-immigration epithets at the group. More criminal charges could be added, he said, if investigators determine that the crash was deliberate.

Also on Sunday, one person was killed and two were wounded in a shooting when an altercation broke out aboard a DART train in Dallas. The suspect was still at large as of Monday, according to authorities.

Agencies contributed to this story.

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