Things That Matter

The El Paso Walmart Where A White Nationalist Killed 22 People Reopens With #ElPasoStrong Banner

Amid a class action lawsuit over safety, Walmart has hired off-duty officers to man its El Paso store during today’s quiet reopening, over three months since the deadly, racist mass shooting. On August 3, 2019, a white supremacist drove ten hours from Dallas, Texas, to the Cielo Vista shopping center, armed to kill as many Mexicans and Mexican-Americans as possible. That day, more than 3,000 people were in the El Paso Walmart, and 22 died within the few minutes the shooter opened fire. 

A security guard was scheduled to be there that fateful day but didn’t show. Walmart is currently the defendant in a class-action lawsuit, which is not seeking monetary damages but rather answers as to why Walmart didn’t adequately protect its customers.

The El Paso Walmart reopened its doors but not without an #ElPasoStrong banner greeting customers.

Before its scheduled opening at 9 a.m., employees gathered for the first time since the shooting for an employee meeting. Many wore “El Paso Strong” pins on their nametags. This time, armed off-duty police officers will be standing by, comforting many and alarming others. “There was a time that Walmart hired off-duty officers and for some time prior (to) August 3rd that ceased,” El Paso police spokesman Enrique Carrillo, told The Daily Mail in an email. 

The officers will be paid $50 per hour, roughly double their hourly wage.

Credit: @anjelia3464 / Twitter

Walmart has significantly invested in its security measures at all Walmart stores. “We typically do not share our security measures publicly because it could make them less effective,” Walmart spokeswoman Delia Garcia told the outlet, “But they may include hiring additional security, adding cameras in-store and using ‘lot cops’ in the parking lot. We will continue our long-standing practice of regularly evaluating our staffing, training, procedures, and technology which are designed to provide a safe working and shopping experience.”

If the government won’t implement gun reform, does the burden of protecting shoppers now lie in corporations?

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The National Rifle Association (NRA) is one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the United States, and the single largest roadblock to gun reform in America. The NRA donates to politicians who then ensure its interests are protected. The class action against Walmart presents a morose shift in the political landscape. It presumes that mentally ill people armed with assault-style weapons are something businesses should expect to protect their customers from. 

While it’s legally sound for Walmart to hire the off-duty officers to protect itself from liability, where is the burden on the police department? If the United States won’t pass gun reform measures, should it raise taxes instead to militarize the police and station them at every church, synagogue, movie theater and chain store? Will corporations band together to lobby the government, founded in capitalism, to take this undue burden off its back?

One shopper reflects the sentiment of many heading to Walmart today: “We aren’t letting this beat us.”

Credit: @KeenanFOX_CBS / Twitter

Journalist Keenan Willard met Emma Ferguson in the parking lot of the Walmart. She stopped to smile for a photo and tell him what her shopping experience means to her. “It’s about standing up to our fear. We aren’t letting this beat us.” Willard quoted her in a tweet.

The City of El Paso began removing the makeshift memorial behind Walmart earlier this week to prepare for its reopening.

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Journalist and El Paso resident Andra Litton tweeted a photo of the makeshift memorial behind Walmart the evening before the City of El Paso started removing the items, along with the fencing, “making it visible from I-10 for the first time since the Aug 3 shooting,” she tweeted. “It still hurts. #ElPasoStrong”

The items have been moved to Ponder Park, across the street from Walmart.

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Next to the memorial are “Temporary Memorial Site” signs in both Spanish and English. They read, “The City of El Paso invites the public to honor the victims of the August 3, 2019 tragedy at the Temporary Memorial at Ponder Park. The public may leave memorial items at the site. The public is encouraged to tie an orange ribbon in remembrance of those lost on August 3, 2019.” Along the fence, traditional Mexican sombreros hang next to a green star that says, “God cares!” “Pray for El Paso” and “#FronteraStrong,” along with Día de Muertos images of Frida Kahlo pepper the memorial.

A permanent memorial is under construction in the Walmart parking lot.

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The ‘Grand Candela’ will be 30 feet tall, and projected to be unveiled by the end of the year. A month after the El Paso shooting, Walmart announced its plan to phase out certain types of ammunition from its stores, reducing its market share of ammunition from 20 percent to less than 10 percent. 

Still, some feel Walmart’s reopening, with the memorial or not, is a “slap in the face” to the victims. “It’s disrespectful to the people who died in the shooting,” college student Brandon Flores, 19, told CNN. “Anyone would be able to walk over the place where their bodies were laying and it would be just like nothing happened.”

READ: El Paso Artists Joined Together To Commemorate El Paso Gun Violence Victims With A Mural That Highlights Community Strength

El Paso Man Charged With Murdering His Date Whose Body Is Still Missing

Things That Matter

El Paso Man Charged With Murdering His Date Whose Body Is Still Missing

El Paso Police Department

The family of a woman who had been declared missing since July has finally found tragic answers after El Paso police charged Ricardo Marquez, 28, with her murder. Erika Andrea Gaytan, 29, was reported missing by her family on July 16, who felt it was out-of-character for Gaytan to disappear and leave her 7-year-old son behind. Gaytan reportedly was last heard from after going to a concert at the El Paso County Coliseum on July 13 with Ricardo Marquez. Gaytan recorded the concert, featuring Los Rieleros del Norte, Polo Urias and La Maquinaria Norteña, from her social media last night, marking the last time anyone heard from her. Detectives say that the day after Gaytan’s disappearance, Marquez borrowed his brother’s car and his sister’s shovel. Gaytan’s blood was found in Marquez’s Jeep. In a statement released Wednesday, Sgt. Enrique Carrillo said that Gaytan’s “body has not been found, but based on forensic and other evidence gathered over the course of the investigation detectives have reason to believe that she is deceased and was the victim of a murder.”

Police believe Marquez used zip-ties to restrain Gaytan in his home, where he murdered her.

CREDIT: EL PASO POLICE DEPARTMENT / FACEBOOK

Marquez was brought in for questioning following Gaytan’s disappearance, where he told detectives that she came home with him, but used a ride-hailing app to leave after they got into a verbal argument. Detectives found no evidence that Gaytan used her ride-hailing apps, discrediting Marquez’s statement. According to a court affidavit, Marquez continued to give conflicting statements about his experience with Gaytan, and his whereabouts the following day, when speaking with law enforcement and family and friends alike. 

Marquez allegedly spent the next day covering up his crime.

CREDIT: @JALAKFOX_CBS / TWITTER

Investigators then looked into Marquez’s phone records, which showed that he had texted his brother and sister the next morning. He asked his brother if he could borrow his all-wheel-drive Jeep Wrangler, and picked up a shovel from his sister. Surveillance video evidence creates a timeline for Marquez’s alleged cover-up. He borrowed a shovel from his sister around 11:25 a.m. the following morning, and then went to his brother’s house to pick up the Jeep. He spent about an hour with his brother before being spotted on the 13900 block of Montana in east El Paso, driving toward the Redlands desert area. An hour later, the Jeep was spotted again, driving back to his brother’s house around 1:39 p.m., according to the affidavit that was issued for his arrest. With a search warrant in hand, a Department of Public Safety DNA lab-tested Marquez’s brother’s Jeep trunk floor mat, which came back positive for traces of Gaytan’s blood. Police believe Marquez transported Gaytan’s body in the trunk of his brother’s car, and buried her in an unknown area in the desert.

Court documents cite that a search of Marquez’s home produced the shovel he borrowed from his sister, a pair of shoes filled with sand, and zip-ties “tied in a manner to be used as restraints.” Detectives have concluded that “Ricardo Marquez murdered the victim in his residence, used the Jeep to transport the body of the victim to an unknown location only accessible by off-road vehicles, and that he used the shovel to bury the body.”

The El Paso community is shocked to hear of Gaytan’s murder.

CREDIT: EL PASO POLICE DEPARTMENT / FACEBOOK

“Too many tragedies as of late,” commented Melissa Arredondo on the El Paso Police Department’s Facebook announcement of the arrest. “Dang… And the report says he buried her near Redlands. That place is so cursed. My friend’s dad just died there. It will never be the same,” commented another member of the community. Others remain hopeful in demanding that the police find Gaytan’s body before assuming her death. “Too many questions remain,” commented another concerned El Paso citizen.

Gaytan was facing a court hearing for criminal mischief when she disappeared, but her family couldn’t believe that she would leave her son behind without warning. Gaytan once appeared on El Paso’s Most Wanted List in 2017 before she was charged 66 charges of credit abuse in a criminal mischief case.

Police say the investigation is ongoing and detectives are relying on the public for more information. If you have information on the case or Ricardo Marquez, call (915) 212-4040 or Crime Stoppers of El Paso at (915) 566-8477.

READ: California Man Arrested With Drugs And Guns While Keeping A Person Hostage And Suspected Of Murder

Authorities Have Identified Gabriel Romero As The Person Who Killed Two People In The Pearl Harbor Shooting

Things That Matter

Authorities Have Identified Gabriel Romero As The Person Who Killed Two People In The Pearl Harbor Shooting

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All mass shootings are travesties. Whether they occur in a public place or a school, they always instill fear, sadness, and numbness mainly because they happen so often. When a shooting occurs on a military camp, it is just as daunting and debilitating because servicemen and servicewomen are there to protect and serve. Yet we also know they too suffer from an array of mental health issues simply because of their profession. The shooting at Pearl Harbor is another example of the gun violence crisis gripping this nation.

Officials have identified the U.S. sailor who killed two people and himself as 22-year-old Gabriel Romero. 

On Dec. 4 at around 2:30 p.m., authorities say that Romero began shooting at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard in Hawaii. He shot three Department of Defense workers at the Dry Dock 2 on the base, the New York Post reports. Two of the victims, both males, were declared dead later at the hospital. 

One witness said he saw the shooter and assumed he was a sailor “because he was in a sailor uniform.” He also reports, according to the New York Post, that he recognized the sound as gunfire and also witnessed the shooter shoot himself.  The third victim is currently recovering at a local hospital. 

While all the victims were working on the base, they are considered civilians, not military.

Credit: @nypost / Twitter

“These victims are not only dedicated [International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers] IFPTE union members, they are hard-working public servants who go to work each day to serve the taxpayers and our military forces. They are reflective of the thousands of workers at Pearl Harbor and elsewhere that go to work to earn a living and serve their nation,” the organization said, according to the Star Advertiser. “No worker should have to go to work without the expectation of safely returning to their family and loved ones.” One of the victims has been identified as 32-year-old Vincent Kapoi Jr., a local of Hawaii. The names of the other two victims have not been released. 

“We are saddened by this incident, and our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families,” Rear Adm. Robert Chadwick, Commander, Navy Region Hawaii, said in a statement posted on Facebook. “The Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard is a vital part of our Navy ohana, and we have generations of families who work there. Our security forces are working closely with agencies investigating this incident, and we are making counseling and other support available to those who need it after this tragedy.”

Officials have not reported a motive by the shooter. At the time of the shooting, Romero’s duty was to guard the USS Columbia, a Pearl Harbor-based submarine that was in the drydock for maintenance at the time.

According to the Navy Region Hawaii, Base security, Navy investigative services, and other agencies are investigating the incident. However, Hawaii News Now is reporting that Romero had been ordered to take anger management classes. The outlet says that Romero “was having disciplinary problems at work,” and was instructed to seek help for his anger issues. 

Rear Admiral Robert Chadwick, commander of Navy Region Hawaii, told reporters that he wasn’t sure if Romero knew the people he shot. Shipyard Commander Capt. Greg Burton did send a message to families of the victims, saying, “Looking ahead, we will honor the life and legacy of those lost,” Burton said, according to Hawaii News Now

“Even now, as we mourn the loss of members of our ”ohana, please take the opportunity to reconnect with each other and to reinforce and strengthen the bonds with each other.”

This Saturday marked the 78th anniversary of the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and elsewhere, including in San Diego.

Credit: @HeavySan / Twitter

“We still owe a great debt to the greatest generation,” Scott McGaugh, the marketing director for the USS Midway Museum in San Diego, said to the San Diego Tribune. There are very few of them left. When we honor these kinds of days it reminds all of us that our nation can come together and unify for the greater good. That was certainly the case in World War II.”

On Dec.r 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor military base in Hawaii, killing  2,335 military servicemen and women, and 68 civilians.  It is unclear if the Saturday anniversary event at Pearl Harbor will pay respect to the people who died this week. 

READ:  At 104 Years Of Age, Ray Chavez Hits The Gym He Can Visit Pearl Harbor