Two mass shootings at crowded public places in Texas and Ohio claimed at least 31 lives in less than 24 hours and left scores of people wounded, a shocking carnage even in a country accustomed to gun violence.
In the Texas border city of El Paso, a gunman opened fire with a rifle Saturday morning in a shopping area packed with thousands of people during the busy back-to-school season. The attack killed 22 and wounded more than two dozen others, many of them critically. Many of the victims were shot at a Walmart.
Hours later in Dayton, Ohio, a gunman wearing body armor and carrying extra magazines opened fire in a popular nightlife area, killing nine and injuring at least 27 people. The suspected shooter was shot to death by responding officers.
The attacks came less than a week after a 19-year-old gunman killed three people and injured 13 others at the popular Gilroy Garlic Festival in California before dying of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The shooter in Dayton was identified as a man in his 20s named Connor Betts, a law enforcement official said.
Betts was killed by police less than a minute after he opened fire with a .223-caliber rifle in the streets of the Oregon District around 1 a.m. Sunday. Police haven't released further information about Betts or publicly discussed a motive.
The official who identified the gunman spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity and was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation publicly.
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said the shooter was wearing body armor and had additional high-capacity magazines. Had police not responded so quickly, "hundreds of people in the Oregon District could be dead today," she said.
The historic neighborhood that Police Lt. Col. Matt Carper described as "a safe part of downtown," is home to bars, restaurants and theaters.
Whaley, in a phone interview Sunday with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” called the shooting deaths in her city “completely preventable.”
“We’re city No. 250 — how many more cities have to go through mass shootings before somebody does something to change the law?” she asked.
The El Paso shooting will be handled as a domestic terrorism case, federal authorities said Sunday as they weighed hate-crime charges against the gunman that could carry the death penalty.
A local prosecutor announced that he would file capital murder charges, declaring that the assailant had "lost the right to be among us."
Two law enforcement officials who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity identified the suspect as 21-year-old Patrick Crusius from Allen, which is a nearly 10-hour drive from El Paso.
Investigators were focusing on whether the attack was a hate crime after the emergence of a racist, anti-immigrant screed that was posted online shortly beforehand. Detectives sought to determine if it was written by the suspect.
The border city has figured prominently in the immigration debate and is home to 680,000 people, most of them Latino.
El Paso authorities offered few details about the assault, but Police Chief Greg Allen described the scene as "horrific" and said many of the 26 people who were hurt had life-threatening injuries.
Allen did say that he did not know where the weapon was purchased. He acknowledged that open carrying a long rifle in Texas is legal under state law.
Despite initial reports of possible multiple gunmen, the man in custody was believed to be the only shooter, police said.
Mayor Dee Margo said he knew the shooter was not from his city.
"It's not what we're about," the mayor said at the press conference with Allen and Gov. Greg Abbott.
Democratic presidential candidate and former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke, who is from El Paso and was at a candidate forum Saturday in Las Vegas, appeared shaken after receiving news of the shooting in his hometown.
He said he heard early reports that the shooter might have had a military-style weapon, saying we need to "keep that (expletive) on the battlefield. Do not bring it into our communities."
White House aides said President Donald Trump has been receiving updates about both shootings.
The FBI, local and state law enforcement are working together in El Paso and in Dayton, Ohio. Information is rapidly being accumulated in Dayton. Much has already be learned in El Paso. Law enforcement was very rapid in both instances. Updates will be given throughout the day!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 4, 2019
"The FBI, local and state law enforcement are working together in El Paso and in Dayton, Ohio," Trump tweeted Sunday morning. "God bless the people of El Paso Texas. God bless the people of Dayton, Ohio."
His first tweet after the El Paso shooting on Saturday hit similar notes, with Trump calling it "terrible" and promising the full support of the federal government. But just 14 minutes later, he tweeted again, a discordant post wishing UFC fighter Colby Covington, a Trump supporter, good luck in his fight that evening. That was soon followed up with a pair of retweets of African American supporters offering testimonials to Trump's policies helping black voters, though the president polls very poorly with blacks.
The motive for the Dayton shooting, which happened at a popular nightlife area, was not immediately known. But Democrats pointed to the El Paso attack and blamed Trump for his incendiary rhetoric about immigrants that they say fosters an atmosphere of hate and violence.
Authorities are investigating the possibility that the shooting in El Paso was a hate crime, working to confirm whether a racist, anti-immigrant screed posted online shortly beforehand was written by the man arrested in the attack on the border city. The writer expresses concern that an influx of Hispanics into the United States will replace aging white voters, potentially turning Texas blue in upcoming elections and swinging the White House to the Democrats.
Trump's language about immigrants, and his hard-line policies, loomed over the El Paso shooting.
Democrats who are campaigning to deny Trump a second term were quick to lay blame at the president's feet.
"You reap what you sow, and he is sowing seeds of hate in this country. This harvest of hate violence we're seeing right now lies at his feet," Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey said on NBC's "Meet the Press." ''He is responsible."
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg said confronting white nationalist terrorism would be embarrassing for a president who "helped stoke many of these feelings in this country to begin with."
"At best, he's condoning and encouraging white nationalism," Buttigieg said.
Sen. Kamala Harris of California also found blame in Trump's use of language, which she said has "incredible consequence."
"We have a president of the United States who has chosen to use his words in a way that have been about selling hate and division among us," she told reporters before attending services at a black church in Las Vegas.
Sen. Bernie Sanders opened a town hall meeting with a moment of silence and by calling for universal background checks for firearms purchases and more restrictions on assault weapons.
"Assault weapons are designed for one reason. They are military weapons. And I don't have to explain that to the people in Las Vegas who experienced the worst gun tragedy in the history of this country," Sanders said. He urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to call senators back to Washington, saying the Senate should "have a special session to address gun violence in America and let us finally have the courage to take on the NRA."
He also called out the president.
"I say to President Trump, please stop the racist anti-immigrant rhetoric," he said. "Stop the hatred in this country which is creating the kind of violence that we see."
The shootings were the 21st and 22nd mass killings of 2019 in the U.S., according to the AP/USA Today/Northeastern University mass murder database that tracks homicides where four or more people killed — not including the offender.
Including the two latest attacks, 125 people had been killed in the 2019 shootings.