SEABROOK – Three mass shootings in one week, including two incidents within 15 hours on Aug. 3, killed 34 people in different sectors of the United States, leaving many citizens to ask for solutions to solve the growing number of gun-related killings sprees in the country.
The series of events began on July 28 around 5:40 p.m. at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California, where 19-year-old Santino William Legan used a WASR-10 semi-automatic rifle to begin shooting at guests in the food area. According to Gilroy Police, he was quickly approached by officials at the scene as soon as shots started to fire.
Before police could subdue him, the Santa Clara County coroner’s office determined Legan shot himself in the head, killing himself instantly. Three people died in the incident, and 13 people were injured. Two of those who died in the shooting were children.
“In my mind, it changes nothing,” Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee said about the coroner’s office findings on Aug. 2. “The officers still got there fast, they engaged him fast, they drew his fire and they eliminated the threat. Whether he fired that final shot or not in my mind changes nothing.”
On Aug. 3, Patrick Wood Crusius, a 21-year-old White man, entered a Walmart Supercenter near the Cielo Vista Mall in El Paso, Texas with an AK-47-style rifle and began shooting inside the store. Police say that they received calls that people were also shot in the parking lot before he entered the store.
Crusius surrendered to officials six minutes later without incident. He was arrested and charged with capital murder. Twenty people were declared dead at the scene with 24 injured in the shooting. Two victims died over the weekend due to their injuries, raising the toll to 22 deaths.
“The ages and genders of all these people injured and killed are numerous in the age groups,” El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen said during a press conference on Aug. 3. “The situation, needless to say, is a horrific one.”
About 27 minutes before the shooting occurred, Crusius posted a white nationalist manifesto stating his reasons and inspiration to commit the mass murders. The message, posted on the online message board website 8chan, was titled “The Inconvenient Truth,” with Crusius stating his support for the Christchurch mosque shootings in New Zealand that killed 51 people.
His post also contained several white supremacist ideologies talking points, including the increased growth of Latino Americans in Texas taking away jobs from white Americans. According to the U.S. Census, 83% of the El Paso population is Latino.
After determining that Crusius wrote the manifesto and completed a 10-hour drive to commit the shootings, federal authorities announced that they will weigh hate-crime charges that could carry the death penalty.
About 14 hours later, nine people were killed in downtown Dayton, Ohio after Connor Betts, 24, opened fire into a popular nightlife area of the city. According to authorities, Betts, who wore a mask, bulletproof vest and hearing protection, began shootings with a .223-caliber high-capacity rifle for 30 seconds before patrolling officers approached the scene.
Officers killed Betts in the altercation. Nine people, including Betts’ sister, were murdered by the 24-year-old.
“The officers immediately advanced toward the gunfire, and within approximately 20 seconds, they engaged the suspect, who was actively firing and attempting to enter a crowded liquor establishment,” Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl said. “The threat was neutralized at approximately 30 seconds of the suspect firing his first shot.”
In his address to the nation on Aug. 6, President Donald Trump said he has directed the Department of Justice to begin investigating the shootings, issue federal charges and start court proceedings “quickly, decisively and without years of delay.” Trump also directed the media to look at other causes for the growing violence outside of the number of guns in the country, like mental health and the culture of video games in society.
“We must reform our mental health laws to identify better mentally disturbed individuals who may commit acts of violence and make sure those people not only get treatment but, when necessary, involuntary confinement,” Trump said. “Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun.”
Before his press conference, Trump issued a statement on his Twitter account calling for the combining of his push for immigration reform with legislation for universal background checks for gun purchases to have “something good, if not great, come out of these two tragic events.”
Currently, there are two gun control bills sitting at the desk of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that have been passed by the House of Representatives but were not presented before the Senate went to its summer recess.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called out McConnell publicly for his inactivity to push the bills through Congress.
“McConnell must call the Senate back for an emergency session to put the House-passed universal background checks legislation on the Senate floor for debate and a vote immediately,” Schumer said via his Twitter account.
The Democratic-led House of Representatives passed the Bipartisan Background Checks Act (H.R. 8) on Feb. 27 that would require background checks on all gun purchases, including at gun shows, with a final vote of 240 to 190. On Feb. 28, the House passed the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019 (H.R. 1112) with a vote of 228-198 supporting the measure. The action would have extended the waiting period of gaining possession of a weapon to at least 10 days after completing the sale of a gun as the FBI conducts their own investigations into the person’s background, including mental health status and prior arrests.
Neither bill was put up for discussion during the Senate’s spring session.
Locally, Montgomery County Councilmember Hans Riemer (D-At large) called the shootings “acts of domestic terrorism and white nationalist, racist terrorism.”
“We need to treat them in that way and it needs to be a major, national law enforcement priority to figure out how to stop this,” Riemer said. “And that means gun reform but it also means tracking people and arresting them before they commit these crimes.”
Reporter Neal Earley contributed to this story.