by Xinhua writers Gao Lu, Liu Liwei
EL PASO, the United States, Aug. 4 (Xinhua) -- As Sunday night fell, the small U.S. city of El Paso did not return to calm and tranquility as it usually does.
Hundreds of people gathered in a park in the border city to grieve the victims of a deadly shooting that killed 20 and injured 26.
The mass shooting attack that happened here on Saturday morning at a Walmart shopping mall has brought unprecedented shock and pain to the diverse and close-knit community where around 680,000 people live.
"I came here to see my friends and coworkers, to know everybody is OK," a Walmart employee who identified herself as Ruth told Xinhua at the vigil gathering in Ponder Park.
Wiping her tears away, Ruth said she was not on duty when the shooting happened. Two of her colleagues were shot in the incident and are still in the hospital.
Having worked at the Walmart for 13 years, Rush said she had never experienced anything like the shooting before.
"Many Mexican customers come to Walmart all day, every day. People are very friendly in El Paso," she said, adding "I think the shooter is a racist."
El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen said the suspect, now in custody, was identified as a 21-year-old white male from Texas and the shooting shows a "nexus to a hate crime."
According to authorities, the store was packed with as many as 3,000 people busy shopping for back-to-school supplies when the shooting happened.
Araceli Montoya lives not far from the shooting scene.
"It's really heartbreaking that this happened in this city. We don't care about the skin color, the language or if I have an accent. We love people. We welcome people and it's really sad," said Montoya, who attended the vigil alone.
Commenting on the possible motivation of the shooter, Montoya said the government has been "ignorant" of immigration as a problem in the country.
At the Del Sol Medical Center in El Paso where 11 of the injured were being treated, 74-year-old Dolores Casteel told Xinhua that a friend of her son was shot twice and had gone through two surgeries.
"El Paso is a very safe city, one of the safest places in the United States," she said. "We help each other, we do everything for each other in the community."
Israel Talderon told Xinhua at the entrance of the medical center that his aunt had been shot in the arm in the shooting and underwent surgery on Sunday.
"I never think this kind of thing will happen in our city or community. The gunman hates everybody," he said.
Born in Mexico and having immigrated to the United States about 15 years ago, Talderon believed people, especially children, should be educated about using guns properly.
In a press briefing earlier on Sunday, John Bash, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas, said the U.S. federal government is treating the mass shooting "as a domestic terrorism case."
"We are conducting a methodical investigation with our partners ... but with a view towards bringing federal hate crime charges and federal firearm charges which carry a penalty of death," said Bash.