A gunman killed nine people and injured 26 others in Dayton, Ohio, early Sunday morning, mowing them down in less than a minute before he was killed by police. It was the second mass shooting in the U.S. in less than 24 hours.
Thirteen hours earlier, a gunman slaughtered 20 people and wounded dozens more inside a Walmart and shopping center in El Paso, Texas.
The suspected shooter in Dayton opened fire in a popular nightlife area known as the Oregon District, at around 1 .a.m., police said.
He wore body armor and a mask over his face while firing a .223-caliber rifle, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said at a press conference Sunday morning. The gunman was shot and killed by police, who had not divulged his name. Officials said he was carrying extra ammunition.
“If the Dayton police had not gotten to the shooter in under a minute, hundreds of people in the Oregon District would be dead today,” Whaley said.
CBS News identified the suspect as 24-year-old Connor Betts, of Bellbrook, Ohio. Sources told the outlet that police were searching Betts’ house Sunday morning.
Sixteen people were taken to local hospitals and 12 have been released so far, officials said around 10 a.m. Of the four still hospitalized, one is in critical condition.
Officials have not disclosed the names of any of the victims, but two bars in the area, Hole in the Wall and Ned Peppers, said online that their employees were safe.
Police believe the shooter acted alone, and they are trying to determine a motive.
Dayton Police Lt. Col. Matt Carper said the many officers were already in the area when the gunman opened fire, allowing them to act quickly.
“For that, we are very fortunate,” Carper said. “This is a very tragic incident. We are doing everything we can to investigate it and try to identify the motivation behind this.”
Carper described the Oregon District as a “safe part of downtown,” a historic neighborhood that is home to bars, restaurants and theaters.
Police have opened a staging area at the Convention Center for people to check on friends and relatives.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine ordered flags to be flown at half mast and offered the assistance of the Ohio State Highway Patrol. The FBI and the Dayton branch of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are also at the scene.
“Fran and I are absolutely heartbroken over the horrible attack that occurred this morning in Dayton,” DeWine tweeted. “We join those across Ohio and this country in offering our prayers to victims and their families,” he said in a statement. “I commend Dayton Police and other first responders for their bravery and quick response to save lives and bring an end to this tragedy.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said he and wife Connie are “filled with sadness for the victims and their families and gratitude for the police officers who responded to the scene and the medical professionals caring for the injured.”
“We are also angry _ angry that shooting after shooting politicians in Washington and Columbus refuse to pass sensible gun-safety laws to protect our communities. We are still learning about the attack in Dayton and we don’t know exactly what, if anything, could have prevented this specific tragedy. But we know thoughts and prayers are not enough, we have a responsibility to act,” he tweeted.
“My office stands ready to assist the Dayton community with whatever is needed to investigate and recover from this attack.”
Five of the 10 deadliest shootings in U.S. history have occurred since 2016.
In El Paso, the 250th mass shooting this year by multiple counts, Patrick Crusius, 21, went to Walmart in the primarily Hispanic area at around 10:30 a.m. Saturday and opened fire in the parking lot, then continued into the store.
El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen said officials will be investigating the massacre as a hate crime after reports of a four-page “manifesto” linked to Crusius that cited a “Hispanic invasion of Texas” and expressed support for the gunman who killed 51 people at two mosques in New Zealand in March. “I am simply defending my country from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion,” it said.
Crusius was arrested at the scene and taken into custody.
A week ago Santino William Legan killed three people, shot 12 others and then killed himself at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, and one person was killed and about a dozen others shot at a Brooklyn playground last weekend.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who hopes to be the Democratic party’s nominee for president in 2020, tweeted after the Texas shooting: “20 dead. 26 wounded. Countless tragedies all because the gun lobby has certain “leaders” more scared of losing support than losing loved ones. Enough empty words. These families deserve action.”
Another 2020 presidential candidate, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), tweeted: “Enough. We need to end this national nightmare. Praying for everyone affected by this unspeakable tragedy, and for our country to find the moral courage to take action to end this carnage.”
– By Kate Feldman
New York Daily News