EL PASO, Texas - Two years after the deadly El Paso shooting in which a gunman killed 23 people, President Joe Biden published an op-ed expressing grief for the victims of the massacre and pledging action to combat domestic terrorism in the United States.
The op-ed was published in the El Paso Times on Tuesday and detailed the grave loss of life that Biden said has caused "two years of pain," for the families of those killed.
The weekend of the shooting in El Paso was shockingly violent in the United States. Hours after the killings in Texas, another shooter killed nine people in a popular nightlife area in Dayton, Ohio.
The Aug. 3, 2019, shooting in El Paso happened on a busy weekend day at a Walmart that is typically popular with shoppers from Mexico and the U.S.
Authorities say Patrick Crusius — charged with capital murder under Texas law and hate crimes and gun laws at the federal level — confessed to driving more than 600 miles to El Paso from his home near Dallas to target Mexicans. Just before the attack, authorities said, he posted a racist screed online. He has pleaded not guilty, and his defense lawyers have said he has severe "mental disabilities."
In addition to those who died, more than two dozen were injured. Many were citizens of Mexico. El Paso is a largely Hispanic city that forms an international metro area with Ciudad Juarez with more than 2 million people. On the U.S. side, suburbs stretch into New Mexico.
"There is the pain of two years of birthdays and holidays, family dinners, and church services that have never been the same. There is the pain of being unable to continue to commemorate, grieve, and heal together due to a pandemic that has taken so much from us all," Biden wrote.
"You lost educators and a bus driver. Grandparents and grandchildren. Americans and Mexicans and a German citizen. Families just out running errands. Each a life of meaning and potential and part of what makes El Paso strong. As hard as it is to believe, I want you to know that the day will come when the memory of the one you lost will bring a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eye. That day will come, and my prayer for you is that it comes sooner rather than later," Biden added.
Because of the shooter’s alleged ties to racist posts online, the attack was seen as a hate crime targeting Latinos. Biden called for unity in his op-ed, saying the shooter’s attempts to spread "hatred" towards immigrants failed.
"He thought that his hatred of immigrants could prove more powerful than the culture and vibrancy of the people of this community. He was wrong. Yet America’s intelligence community has confirmed what the people of El Paso know all too well: the most lethal terrorist threat to our homeland in recent years has been domestic terrorism rooted in white supremacy. We cannot ignore it. We must confront the spread of hate-fueled violence in every form," Biden said.
In order to put an end to similar attacks, Biden said his administration is committed to fighting "domestic terrorism," by taking action to "reduce online radicalization and recruitment to violence."
Biden explained that in June, his administration worked to disrupt "the networks that inspire such violence by domestic terrorists and hate groups and providing resources to communities to build resilience."
He ended his op-ed with another call to Congress to follow through with a "ban of weapons of war."
"I will continue to act to reduce gun crime using existing authority — ranging from reining in the proliferation of ‘ghost guns’ to investing in community policing and community violence interventions that can save countless lives," Biden said.
Events to mark the second remembrance of the shooting, a largely Hispanic city of 700,000, have taken on a new look amid the coronavirus pandemic: parks lit with lanterns that people can walk or drive through; private tours for victims’ families at a museum exhibit of items preserved from a makeshift memorial; and residents being asked to show support with online posts.
This story was reported from Los Angeles. The Associated Press contributed.