El Paso mall shooting: Off-duty police officer took down suspect within minutes, chief said
Authorities said the suspect who fatally shot one person and wounded three others at a shopping mall in El Paso, Texas, on Wednesday, was taken down within minutes by an off-duty police officer.
During a press conference Wednesday evening, El Paso Police Chief Peter Pacillas said an off-duty officer, who was not identified, was already at the Cielo Vista Mall when the shooting started.
Pacillas said police received calls of a suspect firing off several rounds, striking at least four people, at approximately 5:05 pm and the officer took a suspect into custody by 5:08 p.m.
The officer also took the suspect down without firing a shot, the police chief said.
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Later in the press conference, Pacillas said it is unclear at this time if the suspect fired at the off-duty officer and that investigators were only just beginning to investigate the crime scene.
The police chief said officers from multiple departments, including the El Paso Police Department, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), U.S. Border Patrol and the local FBI responded to the “dynamic scene” at the mall and “quickly brought it under control.”
Pacillas said that based on preliminary information, the police department has two suspects in custody and repeatedly emphasized there was “no more danger” to the community.
All individuals involved in the shooting are males, the police chief said, including the three victims, who remain hospitalized.
When asked if the shooting was gang-related or facilitated between “two groups of people,” Pacillas said the answer is not yet known.
The Cielo Vista Mall remains an “active crime scene” and will continue to be locked down and secured until investigators are done processing, he said.
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Burges High School in El Paso, located at 7800 Edgemere Blvd, has been set up as a reunification center for residents and community members, the police chief told reporters.
Other officials at the presser affirmed the “fantastic response” of the law enforcement officers, including the off-duty officer who made the arrest and officers from other agencies who also responded “within minutes.”
El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser confirmed the El Paso police are leading the investigation, with “great cooperation” from federal, state and local partners.
The mayor said the investigation is in its early stages and that they “will release information in a timely manner.”
“We will have further updates as we have the information,” Leeser told reporters.
FBI Special Agent Jeff Downing spoke briefly during the press conference.
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He complimented the officers for their response and encouraged any potential witnesses to share photos or videos with law enforcement officers via a tip line accessible online.
“It is important to get this as soon as possible,” he said.
During a question and answer session, Chief Pacillas did not disclose the ID of the victims, but clarified at least one was “working at the store” when the shooting took place.
Pacillas also said no officer fired shots at the scene and that no officers were injured.
The weapon used in the shooting was not identified.
Neither suspect is hospitalized, he said.
The police chief said any vehicles that were parked at the mall are considered part of the crime scene and that investigators will clear them before their owners will be able to retrieve them.
During the presser, the mayor also responded to a question on whether the shooting would have been worse had the off-duty officer not been there.
“We did our job,” Mayor Leeser said in response. “All officers were in the surrounding area within minutes.”
Pacillas was appointed Interim police chief earlier this month, on Feb. 3, after former Police Chief Greg Allen died on Jan. 17. He has served as assistant police chief since 2009.
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