El Paso remembers victims of Walmart mass shooting on 4th anniversary
EL PASO, Texas (KTEP) - Patricia Benavides told her husband she would be at the McDonald’s restaurant inside the Cielo Vista Walmart after shopping four years ago.
Benavides wanted to see if the fast food location had the last Lion King toy she wanted for her collection. Her husband Arturo stayed at the checkout line. She didn’t know it would be the last time she would see him.
After being told the restaurant didn’t have what she was looking for, Benavides decided to wait for her husband on a bench near the entrance. That’s when she heard the gunshots.
“A mob of people (were) running. Terrified and everything,” she said. “I think it was my Jesus, or my angel, or the Virgin Mary that got me into the bathroom. And, there was a couple there. Shaking and in shock.”
She survived the attack. But still faces many challenges from the trauma of that day. Benavides said it can be hard to be in public spaces.
“It brings back all the memories of that day,” she said.
Despite the pain, Benavides was at Ponder Park near the Walmart on Thursday. She spoke to dozens of people who gathered to honor the 23 people killed at the store on August 3, 2019 for the anniversary.
She thanked the people for remembering the victims of the attack.
“It’s hard. It feels like it just happened yesterday,” Benavides told the crowd. “All these beautiful people that went to heaven, they’re praying for us. And, I pray for all of them every night.”
There were various events held throughout the city to honor the memory of the victims, several of them included the reading of their names. Art exhibits and a memorial were also set up at the El Paso Museum of Art.
The county hosted a “resilience ceremony” at the Healing Garden at Ascarate Park in the evening. The event featured yoga, meditation, and a performance by Pro-Musica. That event concluded the day with light beams pointed toward the night sky to represent the victims.
Participants in each of the events talked about healing, bringing the community together, and remembering the people who were killed in the attack.
“This will never happen again and we will protect ourselves and that everyone realizes that we are all created equal and we are one,” Mayor Oscar Leeser said during a ceremony at Crime Victims’ Memorial Park.
But some also called on the state and federal government to do more to prevent future mass shootings and address White Supremacy.
Fernando Garcia, executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights, said since the shooting, Texas has only become more dangerous. The state has generated laws making guns more accessible, he said.
“Four years after, the authorities locally, in the state and nationally, they have not done anything to appease, to fight, to push back against the causes of this attack.”
Garcia also compared Texas Governor Greg Abbott to former President Donald Trump over his border security policies.
“He has spent a lot of money on this narrative that there is an invasion at the border at the people at the border, the people that cross the border, that we are criminals, rapists and (MS-13) gang members,” he said.
Garcia said the gunman who carried out the attack against the Walmart four years ago was greatly influenced by rhetoric that painted immigrants as “invaders."
The gunman told police he had traveled to El Paso from North Texas to target “Mexicans.” He also posted on a social media website often used by White supremacists stating he was responding to the “Hispanic Invasion of Texas.”