EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – A shooting that left one person dead and three others injured Wednesday at Cielo Vista Mall was the result of a confrontation between two groups of people, El Paso police said.
“It was a random encounter between two groups at the mall. A confrontation at the food court area at Cielo Vista and that’s where it was isolated to,” El Paso Police Interim Chief Peter Pacillas said on Thursday.
Police said the shooting was preceded by a verbal and physical confrontation between the two groups composed of people in their late teens and early 20s.
“In group B one person produced a handgun and shots were fired. As a result, one member of group A was injured and deceased. Two in group B were wounded and are in stable condition at area hospital,” Pacillas said.
Two personas have been arrested in connection with the shooting. When asked if groups A or B were gang members, police officials said no. The Texas Penal Code defines a criminal gang as three or more persons having a common identifying sign or symbol, or an identifiable leadership, who continuously or regularly engage in the commission of criminal activities.
Police said the shooting was random and neither targeted the mall nor the people of El Paso, in general. Officials emphasized the point given Wednesday’s shooting took place next to a Walmart where on Aug. 3, 2019, a lone gunman who traveled to El Paso from North Texas the night before shot 23 people dead and wounded nearly two dozen more in a racially-motivated attack.
“This was no attack against the community. This was something that was not planned. It was an encounter between two groups that unfortunately resulted in a shooting,” El Paso Police Sgt. Javier Sambrano said. “It is very important that this information is relayed accurately so as to not panic the community.”
Sambrano said everyone touched by gunfire was a member of the two groups involved. He said during the ensuing investigation police came upon three people at the mall who were armed but found to be lawfully carrying weapons.
Pacillas said the shooting was reported to police at 5:05 p.m. and by 5:08 p.m. an off-duty municipal police officer working for a store at Cielo Vista Mall had managed to detain one of the suspects. This quick response helped to quickly de-escalate the situation, police officials said.
Police said they could release no additional information due to the ongoing investigation. The names of those in custody have not been released.
Pacillas praised the coordination between their officers (50 units responded to the scene) and those of the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. Border Patrol, Homeland Security Investigations and multiple other agencies. They also gave a nod to the El Paso Fire Department for the swift transportation of the injured.
He said private vehicles kept at the mall parking lot overnight as police conducted their investigation would be released on Thursday. The police chief said authorities were in the process of handing over the scene back to Cielo Vista Mall operators.