Looking Back: A Year After The El Paso Walmart Tragedy
August 3, 2020 marks the first anniversary of the tragic shooting that took place at a Walmart in El Paso, TX. – Here’s a brief recap of what has transpired over the last year.
Morning of August 3, 2019
On August 3, 2019, around 10:30 a.m., a lone gunman from Allen, TX armed with an AK-47 entered Walmart near the Cielo Vista area in East El Paso and opened fire killing 23 people and injuring dozens more. The shooter is arrested without incident on-site and would later be charged with capital murder. The FBI considers the Walmart shooting as an act of domestic terrorism and hate crime and officially becomes one of the nation’s deadliest attacks and shootings on Latinos in modern American history.
A sprawling makeshift memorial almost immediately begins to take form at the Walmart parking lot which lasts for months. People from all over the city and soon across the nation begin to drop off flowers, candles, pictures, and religious tokens along with handmade posters sharing messages of love, hope, and support – not just for the victims, their families but also for the whole of El Paso enduring this terrible tragedy.
El Paso Strong Movement
Soon after the hateful act, the El Paso Strong movement begins - Everyone begins using the slogan and merchandise starts to pop up like stickers and t-shirts. Residents all over El Paso and across the country sell out the most popular El Paso Strong T-shirt created by Viva La Mocha Designs – a simple star dotted in yellow. Murals also go up, including the original El Paso Strong mural that appeared overnight in central El Paso created by local artist, Gabe Real.
Victims Funds Created
By the evening of August 3, 2019, GoFundMe pages are set up to help the victims of the shooting, including the two major funds created by the El Paso Community Foundation and The Paso Del Norte Foundation. Both foundations ended up joining forces and as money poured in from all over the world – the El Paso Victims Fund ended up collecting over $11 million.
The El Paso community grieved alongside the families of the victims as funerals were held across the city and Ciudad Juárez. There was an overwhelming amount of support for the victims’ families from El Paso and all over the world. Antonio Basco whose wife had been killed in the massacre and who had no family asked the community to help him pay tribute to his wife of 22 years, Margie Reckard. Over 3,000 people came out to support and paid their respects while hundreds more attended her funeral the next morning.
Khalid Benefit Concert
A month after the horrific event, El Paso’s Khalid announces his Night For Suncity benefit concert set for September of 2019 with all of the proceeds going to the families of the victims affected by the shooting. On the night of the concert, Khalid surprises his fans with appearances by Rae Sremmurd, Lil Yachty, SZA including actor Matthew McConaughey and local politician Beto O'Rourke. After the concert, The Great Khalid Foundation donates half-a-million dollars to the El Paso Community Foundation Victims Fund and its education initiative.
Grand Candela Memorial Unveiled
Three months later in November, a Grand Candela memorial is unveiled in the parking lot of Walmart were the 23 victims were shot to death. The 30-foot tall golden obelisk called the Grand Candela serves as a beacon of hope for the survivors and our city, reminding us of our resiliency and strength as a community.
Three months into the New Year, 2020, the novel coronavirus makes it way to El Paso, TX.
Death of the Last Shooting Victim
Sadly after a nine-month fight, hospital officials announced the death of the last shooting victim Guillermo "Memo" Garcia. Garcia and his wife were fundraising for their daughter’s soccer team in the Walmart parking lot when the gunman opened fire. His wife suffered leg wounds but recovered – Garcia’s death raises the death toll of the shooting massacre to 23.
Baby Anchondo’s 1st Birthday
Baby Paul Anchondo's parents, Jordan and Andre, were killed while shielding their child during the Walmart mass shooting. Baby Anchondo who survived the mass shooting in 2019 celebrated his first birthday during Memorial Day weekend with hundreds of people joining in a drive-by parade celebrating his big day.
Shooter In Court
The shooter was arrested on August 3, 2019, and was later charged with capital murder. Since then, the 21-year-old gunman faces the death penalty on a state capital murder charge to which he pleaded not guilty last year. He currently is being held without bond on one count of capital murder of multiple people under Texas state law. According to a 90-count indictment unsealed in February, he also has been charged with several federal hate crimes related to the shooting. The grand jury also added 22 counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for those injured in the shooting who survived. Those assault counts carry a hate crime enhancement which makes them punishable by up to life in prison.
As of April 2020, the gunman faces new charges with the added murder charge of Guillermo "Memo" Garcia, who died April 25, 2020 - one of the last shooting victims that initially had survived. A federal grand jury has not reindicted him on new charges to reflect Garcia's death.
The federal case continues however due to the ongoing pandemic the process has been slow but will progress later this fall.
One Year Later
Various city-wide memorials are being planned for August 3, 2020, and with no doubt proud El Pasoans will be sporting their El Paso Strong shirts. One year later, in honor of the innocent victims, let’s reflect on the solidarity of our city and the resiliency of our community – knowing that we are stronger together, no matter what happens.
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