President Donald Trump , after coming in for significant criticism for not appearing publicly in the wake of the weekend pair of mass shootings, said Sunday that “hate has no place” in the United States, citing the alleged “mental problems” of the shooters who killed at least 29 people and injured dozens more.
“Hate has no place in our country, and we’re going to take care of it,” Trump told reporters before boarding Air Force one to return to Washington after spending the weekend at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
Accompanied by his wife Melania, Trump said that “mental problems” had contributed to the shootings, but he did not respond to reporters’ questions about the alleged anti-immigrant manifesto that the suspected El Paso shooter had posted online prior to attacking the Walmart.
Trump has often been criticized for using anti-immigrant rhetoric to cement his support among his political base.
The president congratulated law enforcement agencies in both Texas and Ohio for their quick responses to the two incidents.
“As bad as it was, it could have been so much worse,” Trump said. “We have to get it stopped. This has been going on for years.”
Trump had spent the weekend at his golf club in Bedminster and had not gone before cameras or spoken with reporters since the first incident at the El Paso Walmart on Saturday.
The president said that he had spoken with the Texas and Ohio governors, and with US Attorney General William Barr and members of Congress to see what can be done to halt gun violence in the US, and he added that on Monday he will issue an official statement on the shootings from the White House.
Trump had taken to Twitter on Saturday in the hours after the shooting, condemning it as “an act of cowardice” and a “hateful act.”
“Today’s shooting in El Paso, Texas was not only tragic, it was an act of cowardice. I know that I stand with everyone in this Country to condemn today’s hateful act. There are no reasons or excuses that will ever justify killing innocent people,” Trump wrote. “Melania and I send our heartfelt thoughts and prayers to the great people of Texas.”
US authorities said Sunday that they are treating their investigation into El Paso massacre that left at least 20 people dead as “domestic terrorism” and a “hate crime.”
“The state charge is capital murder and so he is eligible for the death penalty,” El Paso District Attorney Jaime Esparza said regarding the shooter, 21-year-old Patrick Crusius, who also wounded at least 26 people when he opened fire with an AK-47 assault rifle in the Walmart on Saturday. “We will seek the death penalty.”
“We’re treating El Paso as a domestic terrorism case. And we’re going to do what we do to terrorists in this country - deliver swift and certain justice,” said US Attorney for El Paso John Bash on Twitter, also appearing with Esparza at a press conference.
Authorities are still investigating the Dayton, Ohio, shooting but one of the nine people killed in the mass shooting near Ned Peppers Bar early Sunday was the sister of gunman Connor Betts, police said.
Megan Betts, 22, was one of the nine people murdered by her brother, Dayton Assistant Police Chief Lt. Col. Matt Carper said in a press conference.
Investigators have not yet determined the motive for the mass shooting, which left 27 other people wounded, Carper said.
Crusius is in custody but the gunman Betts was killed by security personnel.