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Rep. Veronica Escobar On El Paso Shooting


El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, are more than a thousand miles apart. But in the span of just 24 hours this weekend, they each suffered what has become an all-too-familiar American tragedy. Last night in Dayton, nine people were killed when a gunman opened fire downtown. And yesterday at a Walmart in El Paso, 20 people died in what was the eighth-deadliest shooting in modern American history. Earlier this morning, I spoke with Democratic Congresswoman Veronica Escobar, who represents that city.

VERONICA ESCOBAR: I am certain that there have been many, many, many, many people across the community who didn't get a wink of sleep, people who are in mourning, families who have been in tears because their loved one didn't come home last night. And I also know that there are many, many, many people throughout this community who are waking up thinking about how they can help because that is who El Paso is.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Have you had a chance to meet with any of the people who were affected or their families?

ESCOBAR: I went by the family reunification center yesterday. But I will tell you, I - out of respect for the families who clearly were very, very distraught and frightened, I thought it best to not sit and talk with them in their moment of desperation. I do have a friend who is a pastor whose daughter was shot three times, and she's in intensive care. Thankfully, the incredible medical team at University Medical Center saved her life. I thank God for our health care responders, as well as our first responders, who have been working throughout the day, throughout the night to take care of the victims who are hanging on for dear life.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Can you tell us anything more about the victims this morning? What have you learned that you can share with us?

ESCOBAR: It's a wide range of ages from an infant to multiple senior citizens. This is, you know, kind of the representation of our community and who would've been out shopping yesterday - young mothers with their babies, grandmothers with their grandchildren, families running errands, getting groceries, getting school supplies, having a fundraiser outside. It was indiscriminate in some ways in that - but based on a manifesto that was circulated yesterday that might be the shooter's, it was not random in that this is a store that would be bustling with many Latino families on a Saturday morning.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah, the suspect's motives have not yet been confirmed. But, as you mentioned, investigators are looking at possible links between the shooting and that anti-immigrant, anti-Latino manifesto that's promoting white nationalism. Does the Latino community there feel targeted and - may I ask - do you?

ESCOBAR: I - you know, I don't know that the community has had time to really process everything. I can tell you, even as of last night, there are still a lot of people in shock. But I also have heard from a number of constituents who are very angry and who rightfully so feel targeted. You know, this is an individual not from here, who came here to do us harm. He came here to hurt us. For me, it's important to stress that we've got to wait for the investigation to run its course. If this manifesto was his, I certainly hope that law enforcement looks at this as a domestic terrorist act.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Among those who have been confirmed killed are three Mexican nationals. El Paso is right on the border. The community is very intertwined with Mexico.

ESCOBAR: Right. And the Mexican consulate was on-site to help at the hospitals. And El Paso and Ciudad Juarez are very intertwined, connected by family, connected by history. We share the same air. We share the same water. And it's not unusual that there would be Mexicanos shopping and spending money here in this community, just like it would not be unusual for us to do the same in Ciudad Juarez.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You've been elected to local office before, but this is your first term in Congress. And so after the shooting, what will your priorities be now that you have a national platform?

ESCOBAR: Well, my immediate priorities are to here for my community and to be, like every other citizen, available to help, ready to cook a meal, ready to embrace someone. But, you know, I will tell you, as a legislator, we have an obligation to take action. The shooter had an assault-style weapon. There is absolutely no reason for those to be on the streets of any community. And so it is long past time that we recognize that we have a gun epidemic but also that we have a hate epidemic in this country. And it's going to be up to everyone, legislator or not, to push for change.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Representative Veronica Escobar - she represents the 16th Congressional District in Texas. Thank you.

ESCOBAR: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.