EL PASO, Texas — Plenty of Mexican shoppers showed up at Thursday’s reopening of the El Paso Walmart where a gunman killed 22 people and wounded two dozen others three months ago.
Suspect Patrick Crusius allegedly told police that he was targeting “Mexicans” with an assault rifle. Eight of the dead were Mexican citizens. They were a school teacher, a former radio station executive and several seniors.
The massacre was far from typical in El Paso, which for two decades has ranked as one of the safest cities in America. Across the border, Juarez, Mexico, weathers an average of four daily murders and last week saw a drug gang unleash a wave of violence that left 30 people dead, 25 vehicles burning and more than 40 bomb threats called in.
“There is more violence in Mexico — in Juarez — right now than there is in El Paso. The violence here is minimal,” said Antonio Garcia, a Juarez resident who on Thursday brought his wife and children to shop at the Walmart near Cielo Vista Mall.
The store where the shooting occurred has always drawn Mexican customers attracted by affordable prices and something they say they don’t always find south of the border: a money-back guarantee if the product they bought is defective.
“I like the prices. They’re inexpensive. We shopped here before (the shooting) and I think we’ll always come back,” Garcia said.
Ulises Ramirez, another Juarez resident, said news of the massacre shocked people in Mexico as much as it did in El Paso. “It is something I don’t wish upon anyone,” he said.
Ramirez added that he felt safe walking into the Walmart on Thursday, but is mindful that “you can never know when something bad might happen — anywhere.”
A young couple who exited a vehicle with Chihuahua state license plates in the parking lot of the Walmart said they felt a bit “odd” walking into the store after the massacre. However, they agreed with other Mexican shoppers that Juarez is much more unpredictable in terms of public safety.
For instance, Mexican news outlets reported that on Thursday gang members stepped into a public transportation bus carrying six passengers and threw a Molotov cocktail. Also on Thursday, a new bomb threat prompted the evacuation of 3,000 employees at a manufacturing plant.
“There’s a lot of insecurity over there. What happened here was (unexpected),” said Jonathan, who declined to give his last name. However, he conceded feeling “some fear” being at that particular Walmart.
But Melisa, his partner, said she felt fine. Looking toward the entrance of the store, where security guards maintained high visibility all day, she said, “they remodeled it nicely … It feels good being here.”
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