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El Paso unites to remember mass shooting victims

Thousands of people including relatives of the victims gathered at a baseball field in the Texas city for a memorial service to honour those killed early this month, allegedly by Patrick Crusius, 21, a white Texan.

FILE: People attend a community memorial service honouring victims of the mass shooting earlier this month which left 22 people dead and 24 more injured, at Southwest University Park on 14 August 2019 in El Paso. Picture: AFP

EL PASO - The grieving US community of El Paso came together Wednesday night, standing up to the hatred that took the lives of 22 people, many of them Hispanic, in a mass shooting.

Thousands of people including relatives of the victims gathered at a baseball field in the Texas city for a memorial service to honour those killed early this month, allegedly by Patrick Crusius, 21, a white Texan.

After the killings at a Walmart, he told police following his arrest that he was targeting "Mexicans," according to an arrest warrant published by US media.

"We still cannot comprehend the evil that struck El Paso 11 days ago, the magnitude of the hatred and racism," Texas Governor Greg Abbott told the gathering.

But he vowed: "We will not allow our hearts to be hardened, and we will not allow hatred to stoke more hatred."

Eight of the people killed in the rampage were Mexican nationals and many of the other victims were Americans of Hispanic origin.

They included Jordan and Andre Anchondo, a couple in their early 20s who died shielding their baby, and another couple decades older: Maria and Raul Flores.

There was also Javier Rodriguez, 15, and Luis Juarez, 90.

They and all the others were remembered at the service which began with a video tribute to the victims.

El Paso's Roman Catholic Bishop Mark Seitz said no "false and contrived distinction will separate us from one another."

The tragedy in El Paso was committed on the basis of "racist" anti-Mexican rhetoric in a country that "has always been a land of opportunity for every newcomer," said Jesus Seade, the Mexican foreign ministry's undersecretary for North America.

The 60 million Hispanics in the United States have been "a rich source of progress and diversity," he added, but pointed to a rise in hate crimes and white nationalist organizations since 2017.

Critics of US President Donald Trump have accused him of stoking such hatred.

"The tragedy in El Paso reveals that we live in a time of urgency and must respond to it," Seade said.

El Paso lies on the Rio Grande River which marks the US border with Mexico. It has a population of 680,000, of which 83% are of Hispanic descent.

The shooting there came hours before a gunman in Dayton, Ohio killed nine people, reigniting calls for gun control in the United States where firearms were linked to nearly 40,000 deaths in 2017.

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