By Todd Prussman
Two mass shootings in the space of 13 hours in Ohio and Texas have left the nation reeling in grief and demanding an end to hatred-fueled violence.
President Trump, upon ordering flags to half staff at federal buildings around the country, denounced what he called "unspeakable" acts of "evil."
In Dayton, Ohio, Connor Betts, 24, was wearing body armor when he opened fire early Sunday morning in a popular entertainment district killing nine people, including his sister, and wounding dozens of others before he was quickly slain by police, city officials said.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine visited the scene of popular restaurants, nightclubs and bars considered one of the safest areas in the city and said he was "absolutely heartbroken" over the attack.
DeWine, a Republican, said policymakers must now consider: "Is there anything we can do in the future to make sure something like this does not happen?"
Both of Ohio's two U.S. senators visited the scene of the mass shooting. Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown said responding with thoughts and prayers wasn't enough and stronger gun safety laws are needed.
Republican Sen. Rob Portman said the discussion must include not just policy changes, but issues such as mental health supports.
The attack came just 13 hours after 21-year-old Patrick Crusius from Allen, Texas, a Dallas suburb, opened fire at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, killing 20 and injuring dozens more.
The El Paso massacre will be handled as a domestic terrorism case, a U.S. attorney said Sunday as prosecutors weighed hate-crime charges against the suspected gunman that could carry the death penalty.
El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen described the suspect as cooperative and "forthcoming with information."
"He basically didn't hold anything back. Particular questions were asked, and he responded in the way that needed to be answered," Allen said.
The attack targeted a shopping area about 5 miles from the main border checkpoint with Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. Many of the victims were shot at a Walmart.
"The scene was a horrific one," Allen said.
Investigators focused on whether the El Paso 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 Crusius.
In Dayton, police haven't released further information about Betts or publicly discussed a motive.
His 22-year-old sister Megan, an environmental science major at Wright State University, was the youngest of the dead.
Police identified the other dead as Monica Brickhouse, 39; Nicholas Cumer, 25; Derrick Fudge, 57; Thomas McNichols, 25; Lois Oglesby, 27; Saeed Saleh, 38; Logan Turner, 30; and Beatrice N. Warren-Curtis, 36.
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.
Six of the nine killed were black, police said. Although they'll investigate the possibility of a hate crime, they said the quick timing of the violence made any discrimination in the shooting seem unlikely. Police said Betts, who was white, was killed in less than a minute by officers patrolling in the area.
The shootings in Texas and Ohio come just a days after a 19-year-old shot and killed three people, including two children, at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Northern California.
Sunday's shooting in Dayton is the 22nd mass killing 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 were killed -- not including the offender. The 20 mass killings in the U.S. in 2019 that preceded this weekend claimed 96 lives.
(c)2019 the Boston Herald